Phone Booth (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Produced by||Gil Netter|
|Written by||Larry Cohen|
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||Mark Stevens|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$97.8 million|
Phone Booth is a 2002 American neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher, produced by David Zucker and Gil Netter, written by Larry Cohen and starring Colin Farrell, Forest Whitaker, Katie Holmes, Radha Mitchell, and Kiefer Sutherland. In the film, a mysterious, hidden sniper calls a phone booth. When a young publicist in the phone booth answers the phone, he quickly finds his life is at risk. The film received generally positive reviews from film critics and was a box office hit, grossing $97 million worldwide, against a production budget of $13 million.
Stuart "Stu" Shepard (Colin Farrell) is an arrogant New York City publicist who has been courting a woman named Pam (Katie Holmes) behind the back of his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell). He uses the last remaining public phone booth in the city to contact Pam. During the call, he is interrupted by a pizza delivery man, who attempts to deliver a free pizza to him, but Stu rudely turns him away by insulting his weight. As soon as Stu completes his call to Pam, the phone rings. Stu answers, to find that The Caller (Kiefer Sutherland), who knows his name, warns him not to leave the booth, and says he will say hello to Pam for him. He also says he will call Kelly, leaving Stu panicked.
The caller tells Stu that he has tested two previous individuals who have done wrong deeds in a similar manner (one was a child pornographer, the other was a company insider who cashed out his stock options before the share price collapsed), giving each a chance to reveal the truth to those they wronged, but in both cases, they refused and were killed. To demonstrate the threat, the caller fires a suppressed sniper rifle at a toy robot sold by a nearby vendor; the damage is unseen by anyone but Stu, the caller, and the vendor. The caller demands that Stu confess his feelings for Pam to both Kelly and Pam to avoid being killed. The caller contacts Pam, and puts her on line with Stu, who reveals that he is married. The caller then hangs up, telling Stu to call Kelly himself.
As Stu hesitates, the booth is approached by three prostitutes demanding to use the phone. Stu refuses to leave, having been warned by the caller to stay in the booth and not reveal the situation. Leon (John Enos III), the prostitutes' pimp, joins his charges, smashes the side of the booth, grabs at Stu in a headlock and starts punching him. The caller offers to "make him stop" and asks if Stu can hear him, which Stu just answers positively, causing the caller to misunderstand Stu and shoot Leon. Leon staggers away before collapsing dead in the street. The prostitutes immediately blame Stu, making a scene over Leon's body, accusing him of having a gun as the police and news crews converge on the location.
Police Captain Ed Ramey (Forest Whitaker), already suspecting Stu of being the killer, seals off the streets with police roadblocks and starts trying to negotiate to get him to leave the booth, but Stu refuses, telling the caller that there is no way they can incriminate him; the caller proves him wrong, calling his attention to a handgun that was planted in the roof of the phone booth. Both Kelly and Pam soon arrive on the scene. The caller demands that Stu tell Kelly the truth, which he does. The caller then orders Stu to choose between Kelly and Pam, and the woman he does not choose will be killed.
While on the phone with the caller, Stu secretly uses his cell phone to call Kelly, allowing her to overhear his conversation with the caller. She, in turn, quietly informs Captain Ramey of this. Meanwhile, Stu continues to confess to everyone that his whole life is a lie, to make himself look more important than he really is or even feels. Stu's confession provides sufficient distraction to allow the police to trace the payphone call to a nearby building, and Ramey uses coded messages to inform Stu of this. Stu warns the caller that the police are on the way, and the caller replies that if he is caught, then he will kill Kelly. Panicked, Stu grabs the handgun and leaves the booth, screaming for the sniper to kill him instead of Kelly. The police fire upon Stu, while a smaller force breaks into the room that the caller was tracked to, only to find the gun and a man's corpse.
Stu regains consciousness to find the police fired only rubber bullets at him, stunning but not harming him. Stu and Kelly happily reunite. As the police bring down the body, Stu identifies it as the pizza delivery man from earlier. Stu gets medical treatment at a local ambulance; as he does, a man with a briefcase (Kiefer Sutherland) passes by and says that he regrets killing the pizza deliverer and warns Stu that if his new-found honesty does not last, he will be hearing from him again. The man disappears into the crowd with Stu unable to call out because he has been sedated by the paramedics. As he does, someone else is being called from that same line. The audience could only hear him say, "Hello?" and the film ends.
- Colin Farrell as Stuart "Stu" Shepard, a young arrogant publicist who becomes a victim of a mysterious caller who threatens to harm him
- Kiefer Sutherland as The Caller, an unnamed, mysterious, but skilled sniper and killer, who calls Stu in the phone booth, and starts to threaten his life
- Forest Whitaker as Capt. Ed Ramey, a police captain who gives assistance to Stu in his conflict against The Caller but suspects him Stu the killer
- Katie Holmes as Pamela "Pam" McFadden, Stu's client
- Radha Mitchell as Kelly Shepard, Stu's wife
- Paula Jai Parker as Felicia
- Arian Ash as Corky
- Tia Texada as Asia
- John Enos III as Leon
- Richard T. Jones as Sgt. Jonah Cole
- James Macdonald as Negotiator
- Keith Nobbs as Adam
- Ben Foster as Big Q (uncredited)
- Jared Leto as Bobby (uncredited)
Larry Cohen originally pitched the concept of a film that takes place entirely within a phone booth to Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s. Hitchcock liked the idea, but he and Cohen were unable to figure out a sufficient plot reason for keeping the film confined to a booth, and hence they never made the idea into a film. It was only after the late 1990s that Cohen revisited the concept again, when the idea of the sniper came to him.
The principal photography on the film was completed in ten days, with an additional two days of establishing shots, pickups, and re-shoots. This accelerated filming schedule was aided by the adoption of French hours, a work schedule that skips the typical one-hour production shutdown for lunch break.
The film is set in real time, so the timespan in which the film takes place is as long as it takes to watch it, much like the television series 24, which also stars Kiefer Sutherland. Like 24, it also uses split screens. Although the film is set in New York City, it was filmed in front of what is now the CB1 Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, in November 2000. This is made evident by the LACMTA buses periodically driving by. The exact location of the phone booth in the movie is the corner of West 5th Street and Frank Court, as evidenced by the black gate in the background.
Jim Carrey was originally cast as Stu Shepard, but he dropped out. Joel Schumacher said: “We were going to shoot it that summer and he was fitted for the suit. But I got a call from Jim one night and told me he had cold feet. He really didn’t feel comfortable with it. Actors never give up their role. If an actor gives up a part then it’s not right for them.”
The film was originally due to be released on November 15, 2002. However, in October 2002, the Beltway sniper attacks occurred in the Washington, DC area, prompting the studio, 20th Century Fox, to delay the release of the film. The film was finally released in theaters on April 4, 2003.
Phone Booth received generally positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 71% based on reviews from 185 critics, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Quick pacing and Farrell's performance help make Phone Booth a tense nail-biter." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 56 based on 35 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The film grossed $46,566,212 in the United States and $51,270,925 internationally for a total gross of $97,837,138, above its $13 million production budget.
- Liberty Stands Still (also a 2002 film), starring Wesley Snipes and Linda Fiorentino, that shares similar plot and theme
- Knock Out (2010 film), an unauthorized Bollywood remake of Phone Booth
- Locke (2013 film)
- "Phone Booth (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
- Godin, Seth (August 1, 2004). "French Hours". Fast Company. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
- Evans, Bradford (17 March 2011). "The Lost Roles of Jim Carrey". Splitsider. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
- The Associated Press (October 17, 2002). "Sniper attacks delay release of thriller 'Phone Booth'". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- "Phone Booth (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "Phone Booth Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
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