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Will Smith To Replace Ben Affleck In Con Man Movie 'Focus,' Kristen Stewart Drops Out

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by Drew Taylor
April 17, 2013 8:55 PM
26 Comments
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According to a report in Variety, Will Smith is lining up his next role – as an older con artist who teaches a young female con artist his thieving ways. The movie, entitled "Focus," is written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who most recently directed the hit comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love" for Warner Bros. (the same studio producing "Focus").

The trade reveals that Smith has been "weighing the film for some time and has officially committed to joining the pic." Smith is notoriously picky when it comes to what projects he signs on to – perhaps most famously turning down the title role in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" for the safer "Men in Black 3" – and Warner Bros. has had a hard time filling the role. Initially, Ficarra and Requa wanted to reteam their "Crazy, Stupid, Love" stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but when Gosling's schedule proved difficult they started looking elsewhere.

Stewart had been attached for a little while, but according to THR, she has since dropped out. The filmmakers but they were doggedly working on getting Ben Affleck to star. He almost signed on until other commitments intervened. Given the size of the movie, Warner Bros. (and producer Denise DiNovi) knew that they would have to attach a star of a particular wattage, which is why Brad Pitt was also sought at one point.

While the movie isn't something anyone could consider "risky" (unless there's some subversive streak the logline isn't revealing), it does seem a step in the right direction for Smith, who all too often chooses safely commercial fare over more unproven, artier material. Ficarra and Requa previously wrote "Bad Santa" for Terry Zwigoff and "The Bad News Bears" for Richard Linklater, before writing and directing "I Love You Phillip Morris," which, despite it being more or less outstanding, proved too controversial for mainstream audiences.

Warner Bros. purchased the script early last year and, according to the report, they are antsy to get it into development. Considering Smith's busy schedule (he can next be seen in M. Night Shyamalan's post-apocalyptic comeback movie "Another Earth") and Stewart's impending commitments to another "Snow White and the Huntsman" movie, production should get underway soon. We wonder if they're already looking at a July 4th weekend spot.  

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26 Comments

  • lawrencia | May 24, 2013 12:31 PMReply

    Its obvious kristen stewart is a bitch and a hypocrite so she wont act with a great actor like will smith but she has no problem kiss up and cheating with Rupert saunder. In guess you didn't know KStew ,saunders is like only TWO years younger.

  • DG | April 18, 2013 4:42 AMReply

    I Love you Phillip Morris is amazing. Kristen Stewart is no genius or anything but she's way better than people give her credit for. I'm glas she dropped out of this. If she hangs in there she could be doing interesting shit in a few years. And who gives a shit about Will Smith. Case closed.

  • AE | April 18, 2013 8:54 AM

    Agree about '...Phillip Morris', yet another great film that got away.

  • Tam | April 18, 2013 6:59 AM

    She filmed her last movie in 2011. She's jobless and it doesn't look like any projects works with her. This one actually sounded great.

  • John | April 18, 2013 2:04 AMReply

    "...it does seem a step in the right direction for Smith, who all too often chooses safely commercial fare over more unproven, artier material."

    Why is this a step in the right direction, exactly? Smith is the Tom Cruise of his generation, the most reliable box office draw in the world. He even has two Oscar nominations. How has all this been the "wrong direction"? And who said Smith is even interested in, or would be good at, this supposedly "artier" material he is foolishly ignoring in your opinion. Or just look at you own sentence and you have your answer: why would Will Smith, of all people, choose commercial fare over unproven fare? What would be the upside of that, again? Think before you write, guys.

    @George "... the control freak and giant ego Smith. SEE Django Unchained. I am sure what was a breath script will be redone to fit what he wants."

    You don't know what you're talking about. Do you know the man? Ever worked with him? Or any movie stars, for that matter? Smith's comments re: Django were 100% correct -- the title character, supposedly the center of the movie, was woefully underwritten compared to what was supposed to be the sidekick. There's no reason to expect a star, any star, at the level of Smith to not have a problem with that. And yes, Smith can and will demand changes to what he's working on -- as do all major stars. This is not particular to him, ego or not. There's is a particularly big-money, big-stakes business, and they WILL have a say in the material, believe it.

  • Alan B | April 18, 2013 4:03 AM

    John, you don't get it. Will Smith is the most bankable actor of his generation. At a time when true stars are rare, Smith needs to do a hardcore arthouse film in which Chloë Sevigny blows him or something. Because it will prove his credibility to Drew Taylor. For fuck's sake, I am so sick of hearing this same argument: Smith is a likeable, charming STAR ... not a Philip Seymour Hoffman-like character actor waiting to happen. He's a brand, and I don't see the harm in any of the films he has made. Yet the likes of Drew "I am so funny no one laughs at my jokes" Taylor decides he needs to lay down the law on Smith, as if making populist entertainment is something to be ashamed of.

  • LKC | April 17, 2013 11:47 PMReply

    Kristen Stewart is a talented actress and a strong young woman.
    She declineded this role but I hope that WB will offer Kristen the lead in another interesting film.

  • Tam | April 18, 2013 4:33 AM

    Very funny that her fans are talking about her dropping out because she didn't want to be in it. - She didn't want to be in a movie with Will Smith? How so? Is he way too A-List for her liking?
    - She's too young for Will Smith? He's in the same age group as Affleck who was attached on this project when Kristen decided to join in.
    - WB offering her other roles? For them I hope not. With Kristen signed they couldn't get the movie made. Do they want to have another movie on their hands where they have problems to find the right person opposite Kristen?

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:40 PMReply

    I am sure Kstew 'dropping out' had more to do with the control freak and giant ego Smith. SEE Django Unchained. I am sure what was a breath script will be redone to fit what he wants.

  • Alan B | April 18, 2013 4:18 AM

    Smith did what a lot of movie stars do: he had notes for the script. Shocker! Smith had creative differences with Tarantino and then left production. That's the crime of the century! Unlike other film stars (*cough*Robert Redford*end cough*), Smith didn't attach himself to a script for months, impeding production until he got his way. He graciously let it go, and he and Tarantino seem on good terms. Smith didn't want to do a Tarantino film just for its own sake and Tarantino didn't want an actor who couldn't 100% commit to the project. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:44 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:43 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:43 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:42 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:42 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:42 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:42 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:41 PM

    I meant 'great' script.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:40 PMReply

    I am sure Kstew 'dropping out' had more to do with the control freak and giant ego Smith. SEE Django Unchained. I am sure what was a breath script will be redone to fit what he wants.

  • George | April 17, 2013 11:39 PMReply

    I am sure Kstew 'dropping out' had more to do with the control freak and giant ego Smith. SEE Django Unchained. I am sure what was a breath script will be redone to fit what he wants.

  • Alex | April 17, 2013 11:27 PMReply

    Will Smith will never star in a good movie.

    With the team behind Bad Santa, Affleck from his Kevin Smith days and Stewart who has a dark streak, there was a possibility of a slightly subversive, fucked up comedy.

    With Will Smith, we are basically going to get Hitch 2.

  • Rea | April 17, 2013 11:34 PM

    Well I doubt they care about that. With Will Smith onboard the movie will make major bucks domestically and internationally. Wil smith is 100 times the box office draw of acting Affleck or KStew. And at the end of the day the bottom line is all WB cares about.

  • Real | April 17, 2013 9:27 PMReply

    KStew is out of the movie according to The Wrap and THR. Smith wanted someone closer to his age and, presumably, with talent.

    Honestly, this doesn't sound too different from the usual roles he plays and I'm disappointed to see Will Smith taking Gosling and Affleck leftovers. WB must have offered him a truckload of $$$ and no doubt it will be rewritten as a Will smith starrer. I would love to see Will take some interesting risks instead of all the sequels he has lined up and after his nepotism movie with his son and Shalamathingy. Would have been awesome to see him try something different and dramatic like the Hurricane Katrina pic instead of this.

  • fan of both | April 17, 2013 9:20 PMReply

    I hope the script is good. It is all about the plot. Nice combination of actors. Should be interesting.

  • kindred spirit | April 17, 2013 9:12 PMReply

    I really really wish Will Smith would choose something along the lines of Pursuit of Happyness again. Yeah, it wasn't that great but it had heart. Working with K Stew is like making The Last Airbender Part 2. Smith is too talented for this shit. Although I loved I Love You Phillip Morris.

  • Jacob | April 17, 2013 9:21 PM

    KStew dropped out. She is way too young to play opposite Will, girl just turned 23.

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