Finding Humor in Making Dark Movies: Warner Bros’ ‘Just Mercy,’ ‘Motherless Brooklyn,’ ‘Joker’- The Contenders L.A.

Just Mercy
Rob Latour/Deadline/Shutterstock

According to star Jamie Foxx, the upcoming movie Just Mercy has the scent of authenticity.

Let us explain. Foxx portrays real-life character Walter McMillian, who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman in Monroeville, AL. He was released in 1993 after spending six years on death row. Michael B. Jordan plays his attorney Bryan Stevenson on the Christmas Day release.

From left: Morgan, Blank and Foxx Michael Buckner/Deadline/Shutterstock

Rob Morgan played fellow inmate and PTSD sufferer Herbert Richardson. During the Warner Bros panel at today’s The Contenders L.A., Foxx credited co-star Rob Morgan with smelling just right for his character. Fox and Morgan were joined on the panel by supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer Onnalee Blank.

Foxx waxed eloquent about Morgan’s performance and the connection between their two characters. Then he went off on a slightly baffling tangent by adding that Morgan’s aroma was key to conjuring the chemistry. “Even his smell was amazing,” Foxx said. The actor laughed as he realized how odd this might sound, then explained that the characters were shot in separate prison cells, so they had to “feel” each other without always being able to see each other, hence the importance of aroma.

Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx And ‘Just Mercy’ Ignite Oscar Talk At TIFF World Premiere Screenings –

Joked Morgan: “The scent is called ‘Shadow Flak by Robert Morgan.’ Investors, get at us.”

Both actors got serious, however, when they discussed the social significance of the film. Morgan said he appreciated “being able to give voice to a voiceless community. [There are] a lot of brothers and sisters on death row, ain’t nobody fighting for them. … It was a beautiful opportunity, and I’m thankful.”

The next film on Warner Bros. panels, Motherless Brooklyn, also walks on the dark side. Set in 1950s New York, the movie tells the story of Lionel Essrog (portrayed by Edward Norton, who also directs), a detective with Tourette syndrome. The cast includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Willem Dafoe, who joined Norton on the stage.

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From left: Norton, Raw and Dafoe Michael Buckner/Deadline/Shutterstock

Norton, who said he’d been considering turning into Jonathan Lethem’s book a movie for two decades, joked that he was only able to make the movie because the cast was willing to work cheap. “The cast are basically co-financiers,” he said, allowing him to make “a very big movie on a very short [schedule] with a very modest budget. … I’ll be paying that off for years. If you see me in Die Hard 8, you’ll know why.”

Even two of the creative forces behind the dark and violent Joker cracked wise about keeping up with the film’s star, Joaquin Phoenix, and his wild penchant for “spontaneity” on the set, including occasionally dislocating the props.

Production designer Mark Friedberg, who joined costume designer Mark Bridges onstage, noted that Phoenix “knocked a lot of things off of walls,” but said the designers managed to adjust. “We just got bigger screws.”

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