At tonight’s Deadline New Hollywood Panel at the Toronto Film Festival for the upcoming Jennifer Lopez feature Hustlers, the pic’s producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas gave high praise to STX for finally making the edgy pic about the New York Scores strippers who turn the tables on their greedy Wall Street clients.
“Here we have a movie that was written and directed by this ferocious, fearless, beautiful woman [Lorene Scafaria] about ferocious, fearless beautiful women all who are complicated, and we’re pitching to primarily white men,” said Goldsmith-Thomas.
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“The note [another studio] gave us was: ‘It’s great, could they drug the bad guys? Make one of the guys a rapist and drug him?’ I said, this is based on a true story, it’s really a slippery slope of the hustle and the American dream. We really want to explore the complications of that. To which [fellow producer] Jessica Elbaum said, ‘If we were making Wolf of Wall Street, would you say that Leonardo DiCaprio just had to scam the bad people?'” added the producer.
“[STX motion picture chair] Adam Fogelson didn’t say that,” Goldsmith-Thomas said. “He saw Lorene and listened to her and was captivated by her. He believed in everything that Lorene wanted.”
The producer of such Lopez pics as Maid in Manhattan, Second Act, The Boy Next Door and the upcoming Marry Me said that despite reports of Hustlers costing $30M, “it was made for $20.7M. We scraped to make this movie — everybody did.”
The pic was shot in a short 29 days as Lopez had to rehearse for her upcoming concert tour.
“It was quite a journey to make this movie,” said Goldsmith-Thomas. “When it came on tracking, the town finally noticed.”
Hustlers remains a hot draw among women, Hispanics and African Americans headed toward a $26M opening — and that projection has only grown, it has not slowed down. Should Hustlers hit that number, it will rep Lopez’s best live-action opening at the domestic B.O., besting 2005’s Monster-in-Law ($23.1M). While a number of low- and midbudget titles failed during the earlier part of the summer box office against big Disney event pics, Hustlers is one of those adult titles that should prove streaming hasn’t capsized such fare.
On today’s panel, moderated by Deadline’s film reporters and New Hollywood podcast hosts Amanda N’Duka and Dino-Ray Ramos, were Scafaria, Elbaum and stars Constance Wu and Lili Reinhart.
Said Wu on what drew her to the role of Destiny, the protege stripper of Lopez’s Ramona who organizes the financial takedown of their clients: “I was looking for a project about loneliness — not because I’m lonely, but being lonely is very pervasive in our culture because of social media. It might feel like a substitute version of connection, but it’s not. … I didn’t think a project like this would come in the form of a stripper movie. Destiny is lonely because she’s had judgments made on her during her whole life, either because she’s the daughter of an immigrant or a stripper or because she wasn’t into academics.”
Goldsmith-Thomas recalled a line from the film, “‘We’re all hustling.’ We’re all hustling right now. We hustled to get this movie made. I don’t know if there’s anything wrong or not, but a hustle is something that can get you where you need to go. Sometimes you go too far, and that’s when you have to be judge, jury and executioner.”
She added, “When I think of Hustlers, I think of the movie we made and Lorene, Jessica and me going from board room to board room.”
Hustlers opens Friday, September 13. Also starring Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo and Cardi B, the movie has its world premiere Saturday night at TIFF.