'Ocean's Eleven' Top-Grossing Film Ever with an LDS Character
DALLAS, TEXAS -- "The Other Side of Heaven" opened wider this week,
expanding from 2 to 15 theaters. This is a platform release, meaning
the film opens in limited theaters before expanding or moving to
other cities. But amazingly, it broke into the Top 30 nationwide
list. This is a considerable accomplishment considering the fact that
virtuall all of the other films in the Top 30 were playing in far
more theaters: The next lowest theater count was for "The Royal
Tenenbaums," in 40 theaters.
Six major studio films opened this weekend, so competition was
intense: Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the
Ring" opened in 1st place (of course). Other new films included
Russell Crowe in Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind", the CGI-animated
"Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" and "The Majestic" starring Jim Carrey.
"Heaven's" climb to number 26 with only 15 theaters is nothing to
scoff at. After two weeks in limited release, "Heaven" has taken in
$191,000 at the box office.
Of course, far more moviegoers saw Mormon characters in this week's
Number 2 film at the box office. "Ocean's Eleven" brought in another
$14.6 million in its third weekend. The Steven Soderbergh crime caper
has now grossed over $100 million. This means that "Ocean's Eleven"
has surpassed "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" as the top-earning
film of all time to feature a Mormon outlaw. Of course, Paul Newman
as the charismatic Mormon train robber Butch Cassidy was a far more
important character in that 1969 movie. Scott Caan and Casey Affleck
as the Mormon Malloy twins are almost buried behind all their
co-stars. We can only hope they get their own sequel.
"Oceans's Eleven" has also become the top-grossing film ever to
feature a main character explicitly identified as a Mormon. "Rain
Man" ($173 million) and "Deep Impact" ($140 million) both earned more
than "Ocean's Eleven" has so far. But Dustin Hoffman's title role as
the "Rain Man" was only based on an actual Latter-day Saint -- the
movie character was changed and was not identified as LDS in the
film. The astronaut from Utah in "Deep Impact" is an LDS character,
but in the movie his religion is not mentioned by name.
Amidst all the major new releases, Mormon-authored "Behind Enemy
Lines" dropped from 5th to 11th place, in its fourth weekend. "Out
Cold" starring A.J. Cook finally dropped out of the Top 20 in its
The Golden Globes nominations were announced. Among the honored films
includes a Best Dramatic Picture nominee, "Mulholland Drive", which
was co-written and co-produced by Mormon writer/movie producer Joyce
Eliason. One of the nominees for Best Comedy or Musical was "Shrek",
on which Latter-day Saint filmmaker John Garbett was a producer.
Garbett is better known to LDS audiences as the co-producer of "The
Other Side of Heaven," but more people nationwide have seen the
computer-animated "Shrek", which has grossed over $267 million
The 2001 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards were also
announced this week. "Mulholland Drive" earned non-LDS filmmaker
David Lynch the Best Director Award. "Shrek" won for Best Animation.
Perhaps most significantly among the L.A. Film Critics Awards, the
Independent/Experimental Film and Video Award went to "The Beaver
Trilogy", directed by non-practicing Mormon filmmaker Trent Harris.
"Beaver" refers to the town of Beaver, Utah, the setting for the
film's story. It is an unusual self-contained "trilogy" in that the
movie actually consists of three shorter films, each re-telling
exactly the same story with different casts and different techniques.
The film's stars include Crispin Glover and a young Sean Penn.
LDS film fans may be more familiar with Harris' low-budget 1994 film,
"Plan 10 from Outer Space", a science fiction comedy about a Utah
Mormon who discovers the "Plaque of Kolob", which leads her to
uncover an alien plot to use the Church to take over the world.
Finally, the Ring Thing: As mentioned above, the Number One movie
this week (the biggest movie of the month, in fact) is "The Lord of
the Rings." Now, never mind the fact that director Peter Jackson's
first big feature film was "Heavenly Angels," a not-so-accurate
re-telling of the Juliet Hulme story, a story that happened years
BEFORE Hulme became a Latter-day Saint. No, the "LDS Connection" to
"The Lord of the Rings" is simply that this blockbuster film was
inspired by the writings of a Latter-day Saint writer.
We don't mean Tolkien, however. J. R. R. Tolkien, of course, deserves
99% of the credit in the Inspiring Writer department. But before
Jackson ever read Tolkien's books, he first saw the "Lord of the
Rings" movie: the 1978 animated version, which was written by LDS
writer Chris Conkling.
In a Barnes and Noble interview ("Explorations", October/November
2001, pg. 13), Jackson was asked if he had seen the animated "Lord of
the Rings," which was directed by Ralph Bakshi. Jackson responded:
"Yes, I have seen Bakshi's movie--in fact, it inspired me to read the
book. I enjoyed it and wanted to know more. In 1978, an animated film
was definitely the most sensible way to show the scope of the story.
A live-action film back then would have been impossible."
Nobody today will compare the 1978 animated film to the new 2001 live
action release. Conkling and Bakshi had only one film, no CGI
technology, and limited resources, to tell a large story that Jackson
is spreading over three big-budget films. But Conkling's "Lord of the
Rings" was nominated for a 1979 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic
Presentation. (The Hugo Awards are like the Academy Awards for
science fiction.) Conkling was named as a nominee for the Hugo Award,
along with co-writer Peter S. Beagle and original novelist J. R.
Tolkien. (Alas, the Hugo that year went to the first "Superman"
movie). Interestingly enough, fellow LDS writer Orson Scott Card was
nominated for a Hugo that same year, for the novelette "Mikal's
Conkling, Beagle and Tolkien were also nominated for a Balrog Fantasy
Film Hall of Fame award in 1981. (Although you have probably never
heard of the now-defunct Balrog Awards.)
Many Latter-day Saints who haven't seen the 1978 "Lord of the Rings"
may be more familar with a 1979 film that Conkling wrote: "The Emmett
Smith Story." The 35-minute video tells the story of Emmett Smith,
who overcomes a debilitating brain tumor to become a long-distance
runner again. This film was produced for the Church at Brigham Young
University, can be found in many church libraries, and is available
for purchase from BYU Creative Works as part of the BYU Film Classics
Chris Conkling has also given presentations at a number of Sunstone
Symposium meetings, and written a number of articles for the Ensign,
including "The Gentle Power of Jacob" (February 1992) and "The Book
that Built a Better World" (January 1998). For all you Ring fanatics:
The famous book discussed in that last Ensign article was the Old
Testament, NOT Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
So enjoy the new "Lord of the Rings" movie: It is based on a
much-loved novel by a famous Catholic writer, filmed by a now-famous
New Zealand director, who was inspired by the screenplay of a
less-famous LDS writer.
(And did I mention that the late Latter-day Saint actor Billy Barty
was the animation model for the 1978 version's Frodo and Bilbo?
Jackson's film has an LDS elf -- John Thocolich. But only the
animated version has LDS Hobbits.)
On the web: The official "Singles Ward" website is up and running.
Steve Young is pictured there.
Weekend Box Office Report (U.S. Domestic Box Office Gross)
Weekend of December 21, 2001
LDS/Mormon Filmmaker(s) or Actor(s)
LDS characters: Malloy twins
|11||Behind Enemy Lines||3,198,907|
|26||The Other Side of Heaven|
Mitch Davis (screenwriter/director)
John G. Groberg (author/character)
Gerald Molen, John Garbett (producers)
A. J. Cook (female lead)
Joyce Eliason (producer/writer)
|48||Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man|
Reed Smoot (cinematographer)
Paul Walker (2nd billed star)
|71||Mark Twain's America 3D|
Alan Williams (composer)