Deauville: Ray Liotta Reflects on Career, Box-Office Beating of 'The Identical'
He says distributor Freestyle Releasing "got cocky" with wide release for faith-based indie film
Ray Liotta characterized his career as a "winding road," and Tuesday night he made a pit stop on the auditorium stage in Deauville to accept a career tribute from the film festival here.
"I'm truly honored, truly humbled — and way too young to be getting this," he joked, noting that he had made his first visit to the small seaside festival in 1988.
Shortly before the ceremony, he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his career and The Identical, which was beaten badly at the box office by Guardians of the Galaxy this past weekend, taking in less than $2 million on its opening weekend.
"From the reviews that people told me about, they just found the story trite for some reason," he said. The PG-rated indie, by first-time director Dustin Marcellino and starring newbie actor Blake Rayne, told an alternate history-style story of an Elvis Presley-like character and his twin who are separated shortly after birth.
Liotta reflected on the conservative themes of what he called a "beautiful" family film in which he plays a Southern preacher and called critics overly harsh. "I was shocked with how vicious they went after it. They say there are no family movies and then there is a family movie — so who knows?"
He called Freestyle Releasing's nearly 2,000-screen-wide plan as too ambitious for the small $16 million indie. "They also opened it in way too many theaters. They got really cocky, and it really should have been platformed," he said. "It's a faith-based movie, so that might have had something to do with it, but then you can't open up a movie all over the country with $10 million [marketing] bucks. You just can't. As you see with Hollywood movies, they just hit you over the head ad nauseam with all the advertising."
While some faith-based films have done well, the religious audience failed to turn out for The Identical. "I was surprised. I at least thought the faith-based people were really gonna dig it," he said, adding that he's proud of the film even if it was not well received.
"I thought it was a great movie, I really do, and I really liked what I did in it, but people didn't see it, so what am I going to do? I did everything I could. I did the press. I did my job. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't." He noted that his other recent release, the highly anticipated Sin City sequel, also underperformed at the box office despite being the polar opposite of the PG-rated The Identical. "They've got all these kinds of formulas. Then, you know, look at how Sin City did. It didn't do anything compared to what they thought, and there was so much social media on it."
The Emmy-winner reflected on the ups and downs of his career, saying that people tend to remember his wiseguy roles instead of softer ones like The Identical or The Muppets. He just finished the Western miniseries Texas Rising for The History Channel, Kill the Messenger with Jeremy Renner, Stretch with Chris Pine, plus a David Guetta video that made him seem cool to his 15-year-old daughter. He feels his career is on the upswing again.
"I think because I'm getting older — I'll be 60 in December — that might have something to do with it. I've made a really conscious effort to keep away from certain types of projects," he said of his 35-year career. "The whole point is to work with the best people. I feel like I am just hitting my stride now."
He said he still loves acting, from the auditioning process to walking onto a set, adding: "At the end of the day, you're still playing pretend. It's a great way to make a living, just a horrible f—g business."