Luketic Heads to 'Dallas' After Making Money-in-Law
by Scott Holleran
Director Robert Luketic
August 25, 2005

While Wedding Crashers is New Line Cinema's undisputed champ at the box office this year, Monster-in-Law—out on DVD on Aug. 30—is easily its runner-up, which gives director Robert Luketic every reason to be delighted. Since the success of Legally Blonde and box office failure of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, Luketic—the name is Croatian—has elevated his stature in Hollywood; he's the guy who brought Jane Fonda back to the silver screen after 15 years, he is directing the movie version of the popular CBS soap, Dallas and, despite poor reviews, Monster-in-Law made nearly $83 million.

"[Critics] could not forgive Jane Fonda for doing fluff, like she had to do something with mucho gravitas, which is B.S.," Luketic told Box Office Mojo, noting that the movie was a hit with audiences. "While we were shooting, it became J.Lo versus J.Fo and part of what people wanted was to see them hit each other. Maybe they came for the spectacle." The movie, he said, generated its own publicity.

"It was like a blitz," Luketic, who's known for his energetic approach to making movies, recalled. Some of his enthusiasm made its way into his Monster-in-Law DVD commentary, which is alternately playful and straightforward. The combination has proven magnetic, particularly for female stars, who are drawn to Luketic's charisma.

"When I came to Hollywood, I was summoned to Madonna's apartment in New York City," Luketic said, "and she was talking about All About Eve, and how it's one of her favorite films. Now I've seen it and I own it—I bought one of the prints. It's about how youth is perceived and very little has changed in this youth obsessed culture—it's about the need for approval from others. There is so much going on in that movie. It requires some psychoanalysis. All About Eve is the only film I would remake."

Referring to his version of Dallas, Luketic points out that even a soap opera that lends itself to broad comedy can have substance. "It is set against an incredibly realistic, heightened drama," he explained. "The Ewing family is the richest, greediest, most unscrupulous family in the country. The comedy will come from the sheer extravagance."

But don't expect a lampoon of the Lone Star state. "Dallas is a very sophisticated city," Luketic said, "and I've been blown away by how nice people are. They have links to government and oil, and they own nuclear power plants. And, in the movie, we are going to meet some new, interesting international counterparts."

Younger audiences will be given an introduction to the series in what Luketic described as a cinematic experience, which he compared to the George Stevens classic, Giant. Though he's reluctant to go into detail, Luketic said that the character Pam Ewing—portrayed in the series by Victoria Principal—is the story's outsider, the connection to the audience. "Pam and Bobby [played in the series by Patrick Duffy] represent real love," he said, referring to the show's idealistic couple.

Hinting that the movie will involve a secret about J.R. (the role made famous by Larry Hagman) and Miss Ellie (played by the late Barbara Bel Geddes), Luketic divulged that the plot will set up a rivalry between the Barnes family and the Ewings, but TV fans shouldn't anticipate a rigid retelling. "The series exists only as inspiration," he said, adding, "maybe I'm putting some Dynasty into my Dallas."

"It's not going to be contemptuous of wealth and ambition," Luketic promised. "Its very nature is campy, but again we're going for real drama. The esthetic is slick, not just a bunch of television show stuff with explosions, though there is action, too." He said the movie is likely to be released in theaters next summer.

Jane Fonda and Robert Luketic on the set of Monster-in-Law
With the time between theatrical and DVD release getting shorter—Monster-in-Law's window was three and a half months—Luketic sounds like an old Hollywood artist when asked if the frantic pace impedes the business of making movies. "Yes. I believe that, in general, there's this logjam of movies," he said. "There's no time to consider anything in entertainment. I don't think throwing stuff half-heartedly at people helps—a film should have its theatrical run. Then let's talk about DVD."

• Review - Monster in Law
• 5/16/05 - 'Monster-in-Law' Claws to the Top

• 2/7/04 - True Colors - An Interview with Director Robert Luketic

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