A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The dismal $7.7 million debut of director Brad Furman's Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, wasn't exactly a surprise to those involved in the $30 million-budgeted New Regency film.
Sources tell THR that at one point, the poker thriller was in such bad shape that Affleck helped bring in his go-to film editor, William Goldenberg, to help credited editor Jeff McEvoy salvage the movie. (Regency insiders insist Goldenberg was their idea.)
Goldenberg, who won an Oscar for Argo and also edited Affleck's Gone Baby Gone, is said to have improved the final cut of the film, but Runner Runner still was demolished by critics (it scored an 8 percent fresh rating on Rottentomatoes). It likewise was ravaged by moviegoers, who gave the film a C CinemaScore. (Sources close to filmmaker Furman say he lost control of the movie during production.)
New Regency and 20th Century Fox chose to release Runner Runner in the same corridor in which Affleck's Argo debuted in 2012, opening to $19.5 million on its way to a best picture Oscar and $232.2 million in worldwide gross -- a substantial sum for a period historical drama.
There's no doubt that Runner Runner was hurt by Warner Bros.' Sandra Bullock-George Clooney space epic Gravity, which debuted to $55.6 million, the top October opening of all time. Still, Runner Runner was expected to open ahead of where it did, even considering the competitive marketplace.
Affleck and Timberlake each were paid in the $4 million to $5 million range for Runner Runner, about a broke college student (Timberlake) who tracks down the corrupt owner of a gambling website (Affleck) he lost his money too.
Adding to the film's challenges, Affleck, who is currently shooting David Fincher's Gone Girl for New Regency and Fox, also wasn't available to do much promotion beyond an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Goldenberg's credits also include Zero Dark Thirty and the upcoming Transformers: Age of Extinction. He's also working on The Imitation Game.