Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Allen Coulter|
|Produced by||Glenn Williamson|
|Written by||Paul Bernbaum|
|Music by||Marcelo Zarvos|
|Edited by||Michael Berenbaum|
Back Lot Pictures
TJ Film Productions
|Distributed by||Focus Features (USA)
Buena Vista International (international)
|Running time||126 minutes|
Hollywoodland is a 2006 American biographical docudrama film directed by Allen Coulter in his feature directorial debut. The story presents a fictionalized account of the circumstances surrounding the death of actor George Reeves (played by Ben Affleck), the star of the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman.
Adrien Brody co-stars as a fictional character, Louis Simo, a private detective investigating Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), who was involved in a long romantic relationship with Reeves and was the wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Reeves had ended the affair and had become engaged to a younger woman, aspiring actress Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney).
In 1959, Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a Los Angeles private investigator more interested in generating an income than in devotion to his clients, is spying on the wife of a man named Chester Sinclair to find if she is cheating. On a visit to his own ex-wife Laurie, Simo learns that his son is upset over the death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on television. Reeves was found dead inside his Beverly Hills home with a gunshot wound to the head, which police ruled a suicide.
Simo learns from a former police colleague that the Reeves suicide has aspects that the cops don't want to touch. Sensing the potential for making a name for himself, Simo begins investigating and notes several apparent conflicts with the official version of Reeves's death. He also bickers with Laurie over his failures as a father, particularly now when his son seems so troubled.
In a flashback to 1951, Reeves, a charming man whose acting career has stalled since appearing in Gone With the Wind, catches the eye of a beautiful woman and they end the night in each other's arms. In the morning, a newspaper photo reveals to Reeves that the woman is Toni Mannix, the wife of Eddie Mannix, the general manager of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Frightened that an affair with a studio boss's wife will destroy what's left of his career, Reeves is angry that Toni didn't tell him. She claims to have an open relationship with Mannix and tells him not to worry. The much wealthier Toni begins to buy Reeves expensive gifts such as a house, a car and jewelry.
Reeves lands the starring role in the television series Adventures of Superman, based on the comic-book hero. The role makes Reeves famous and gives him a steady income, but he longs for more "serious" work and is uncomfortable with the public's stereotype of him as Superman, resulting in snickers when he is seen on screen in the war film From Here to Eternity.
As the years pass, Reeves becomes bitter at being a kept man and at Toni for not using her clout to help his career. He burns his Superman costume to "celebrate" the program's cancellation in 1958. He also meets a young woman in New York, actress Leonore Lemmon, and leaves Toni for her. Toni is broken-hearted and furious and seethes at her "mistreatment" by Reeves.
Simo initially suspects that Leonore might have accidentally shot Reeves during an argument and imagines how the scenario might have played out. Simo goes home to be beaten by thugs, apparently working for Mannix, trying to scare him off the case. This and other evidence lead Simo to suspect that Mannix was the one who had Reeves murdered. Simo has a vision of how that killing would have occurred.
His client's wife is dead, murdered by Sinclair, who grew tired of waiting for information from the detective. A guilt-plagued Simo gets drunk, then visits his son's school, where his inebriation scares the boy. Simo goes to see Reeves' manager, Arthur Weissman, who has a home movie that Reeves had shot in hopes of promoting some wrestling work. The film depicts a sadness in Reeves, a weariness and humiliation with where his life has led. Simo's final imagined variation on Reeves' death concludes with the actor shooting himself. This is the most vivid of the three scenarios, with Simo imagining himself in the upstairs bedroom, even making eye contact briefly with Reeves.
Each of the scenes imagined by Simo begins with Reeves playing guitar and singing "Aquellos Ojos Verdes (Green Eyes)" in Spanish for his house guests. (Reeves was fluent in Spanish.) The lyrics of the popular song lament a love that can never be fulfilled. After each of the three imagined renditions, Reeves says goodnight to his guests, then retires to his bedroom upstairs, just before the gunshot.
Reeves' quest for success and Simo's realization of parallels to his own existence cause the detective to re-evaluate his life. Simo watches another home movie, this one of himself and Laurie and their son in happier days. He goes to Laurie's house wearing a suit and tie, greeting his son hopefully.
- Adrien Brody as Louis Simo
- Diane Lane as Toni Mannix
- Ben Affleck as George Reeves
- Bob Hoskins as Eddie Mannix
- Robin Tunney as Leonore Lemmon
- Kathleen Robertson as Carol Van Ronkel
- Lois Smith as Helen Bessolo
- Larry Cedar as Chester Sinclair
- Caroline Dhavernas as Kit Holliday
- Kevin Hare as Robert Condon
- Molly Parker as Laurie Simo
- Zach Mills as Evan Simo
- Neil Crone as Chuck
- Gareth Williams as Del
- Dash Mihok as Det. Sgt. Jack Paterson
- Veronica Watt as Rita Hayworth
- Joe Spano as Howard Strickling
- Jeffrey DeMunn as Art Weissman
Hollywoodland takes liberties with actual historical events for dramatic purposes. Several events and places are condensed to fit into the film, including:
- During a personal appearance at a children's western show, George Reeves meets a boy with a loaded gun, who almost shoots bullets at him. Reeves talks him into giving up the gun by saying that they would bounce off him, but hurt innocent bystanders. Although Reeves repeated this story himself, researchers have never been able to find anything to corroborate the story.
- After Reeves's death, Leonore Lemmon is shown at the reading of his will, stunned when everything he owned in his estate goes to Toni. In reality, since Lemmon was not included in his last will and testament, she was not invited to the reading. Lemmon did, however, make public statements akin to the dialogue in the film.
- The depiction of Reeves's scenes in From Here to Eternity suffering audience derision at a test screening (and subsequent cutting of his scenes) is part of an urban legend. No test screenings took place, and the finished film includes all Reeves's scenes that were present in the original shooting script. No alternate cuts of the film have ever been proven to exist.
- The scene showing Reeves barbecuing his costume is based in fact: Reeves is said to have burned his costume at the end of each season, not just the one time to celebrate the cancellation of the series.
- The detective Louis Simo is a fictional character based somewhat on an actual detective in the case named Milo Speriglio.
- A scene in the filming of a first-season Superman episode shows Reeves in an alley, "taking off," suspended by wires. A wire breaks and Reeves crashes to the studio floor. The oft-repeated alley takeoff in the real series was stock footage and was performed by a stuntman. However, Reeves did take such a fall during a cable-aided takeoff, in a studio-bound forested setting, in the episode "Ghost Wolf," and never consented to use cable again in the series.
Legal rights issue with Warner Bros.
During its production, Hollywoodland went through many rounds of getting clearance from Warner Bros. Pictures to use different aspects of George Reeves's Superman persona to reflect the actual nature of his career. Time Warner is the parent company of both Warner Bros. and DC Comics and as such has all final say in the depiction of characters relating to their properties.
The film's first title was Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Superman's well-known patriotic catchphrase, but Warner Bros. threatened legal action unless the film's title was changed so as not to associate the classic slogan with Reeves's death—especially since Warner Bros. was banking the film Superman Returns which was released a few months earlier in June 2006. The filmmakers changed the title to Hollywoodland, not as a reflection of the ailing Hollywood Sign, but in reference to the general milieu of "movieland" itself.
The filmmakers wished to use the familiar filmed opening of Adventures of Superman in context within Hollywoodland, but Warner Bros. refused to license clips from the show itself. The movie recreated the show's opening and substituted a re-recorded version of the opening theme.
Box office and critical reception
Hollywoodland received generally positive responses from viewers and critics, garnering a 69% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.5 on the Internet Movie Database. Ben Affleck earned the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his portrayal as George Reeves. He was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, but lost to Eddie Murphy for his performance in Dreamgirls.
Hoskins and Lane have also been applauded for their performances. Critics at The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair called this film and 2005's Brokeback Mountain (also from Focus Features) Oscar contenders, but the film never received any Oscar nominations.
The film debuted at #2 at the box office. Shot on a budget of less than $14 million, Hollywoodland grossed $14,426,251 in the United States as of October 26, 2006. A further foreign gross of $1,878,000, plus $9,140,000 in DVD rentals and a spot in the top ten DVD sales for its first three weeks of release (ref. Rentrak Corporation, 3-3-2007) allowed the movie to turn a profit.
- Donald, Elizabeth. "SuperGeek," Belleville News-Democrat, 6 June 2007
- Variety, 17 August 2006
- Cathy Schultz, PhD., History in The Movies. University of St. Francis, 2006
- Rentrak Corporation, 3 March 2007
- Official website
- Hollywoodland at the Internet Movie Database
- Hollywoodland at Rotten Tomatoes
- Hollywoodland at Metacritic
- Hollywoodland at Box Office Mojo
- The Straight Dope on Reeves's death