It's easy to peg Mike "The Miz" Mizanin as a particular type of actor. He started as a contestant on MTV's The Real World. From there, he entered the world of professional wrestling. After years of duking it out in the ring, Mizanin hit "WWE Superstar" status, winning championships and becoming one of the main "characters" of the league's bloody soap opera. Like many of his wrestling forefathers, Mizanin leveraged his time in the WWE to make a movie: The Marine 3: Homefront.
But there's little luck to Mizanin's success. Most of it — whether it sounds cocky or not — is thanks to a strong belief in his own abilities.
"I am the most Must-See WWE Superstar of all time and I thought WWE Studios had a great opportunity to have me in one of their films," Mizanin says. "It's kind of surreal, to be in such a successful franchise. From Cena to Ted DiBiase to The Marine 3. Not only do I hope to continue the success, I hope to exceed both of them in success. And hopefully people will enjoy the movie more than any other movie they've ever seen in their entire lives."
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Mizanin grew up in Parma, Ohio, where, according to the actor, there was one path of life for every resident. "You go to college. After college, you go back to Parma, Ohio, you get a job and you get a family and that's what you do." Although much of his early life was spent breaking free and proving himself as a performer, Mizanin admits that The Marine 3 had him going back to his roots.
"[Director] Scott Wiper would be like, 'I want Mike from Parma,'" Mizanin says. "Because that's the kind of setting that [my character] Jake Carter lives in. That's what's different about it. I wanted to bring a real character into it." Mizanin has a laundry list of unexpected influences for his work in The Marine 3. He admits that Van Damme's Bloodsport and Seagal's Under Siege as movies he loved as a kid, but when it came to performing for the first time, he looked to legends, like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Dirty Harry, and Steve McQueen in Bullitt. "They don't say much, but when Clint Eastwood walks into a room, there's that star power. That aura. That vibe you get."
In the end, Mizanin knew he had to dig deeper than just the "action hero" type. "Mike from Parma" was a part of it. The other was real life troops and the difficulties they experience after coming home from war. "When a marine comes home off leave, he's so used to being in battle, so used to protecting," Mizanin says. The actor insists that The Marine 3: Homefront is the type of movie designed for pure entertainment, yet it tackles a fairly serious subject: post-traumatic stress. He puts it bluntly: "[Jake] doesn't know how to live that normal life because he's used to being at war."
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That's sensitive material that the film — which delivers on all the shootout, explosion, fist-fighting craziness one would hope from a Marine movie — and Mizanin worked tirelessly to make it respectful and genuine. "I wanted to make it as authentic as I could with the Marines. I had Marines show me how to hold a gun, how to walk through a room, how to survey a room." The actor has experience in the war zone too: through WWE's "Tribute to the Troops," Mizanin has traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bahrain to entertain U.S. soldiers and hear their frontline stories. Some he still can't believe.
"One kid, he's 19-years-old, he basically runs an armored vehicle. And the vehicle had an orange pole sticking out of it, so I ask him, 'What's the orange pole for?' And he said, 'it hits the land mine so it blows it up.' And I said, 'Have you been blown up before?' And he said, 'Yeah, got blown up yesterday.' I said, 'What?!'"
With all the ongoing discussions of military use and gun violence in the media, Mizanin stands by The Marine 3: Homefront as both a movie that paints Marines in a positive light and works as a piece of kick-ass entertainment. If it inspires someone to join the armed forces, he thinks that's great. If it inspires someone to pick up a camera and make their own action movie, that's great. If it inspires a kid from Parma to seize an opportunity and follow his dream, that's great too. Mizanin has experienced his own fair share of inspiration — from a WWE career to meeting soldiers in the Middle East — and he hopes The Marine 3 gives something back, one way or another.
"I always say: do whatever you want to do. If that's your dream, go for it. I always say, live free. Allow yourself to do whatever you want to do. Don't let people guide your life. You guide it."
The Marine 3: Homefront is out now on Blu-ray.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: WWE Films; Twitter]
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Nobody does dog movies quite like Disney. The canine gold rush for Walt Disney Studios began in 1955 with the release of the animated Lady & the Tramp, which generated a $93.6M cume in three separate theatrical releases. The studio then continued with the king of all dog movies, 1961’s animated classic 101 Dalmatians ($144.8M cume in five releases), rolled through the 1990’s with the live action 101 and 102 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close, which combined to gross over $200M domestic, and has shown no signs of slowing down this decade with hits like Snow Dogs ($81.1M cume) and Eight Below ($81.6M). It’s fair to say that Disney has added another big dog to its resume.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua’s little star Chloe (voice by Drew Barrymore) may be small, but she has a very big bite. The new live action talking dog movie grabbed a stunning $8M on its opening day, and, with a predictably huge surge of family business Saturday and Sunday, Beverly Hills Chihuahua will likely reach an estimated $29M for the three-day. If the number holds, this would be the all-time second-biggest Disney dog movie opening in history, trailing only 1996’s live action 101 Dalmatians ($33.5M). Early math is pointing toward a possible $105M-$110M total domestic take.
Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount), the holdover high-tech thriller starring Shia LaBeouf, scared up another $5.44M on its second Friday, and it seems headed for an estimated $17.7M weekend, down only 39 percent or so from its meteoric opening. Based on that hold, the DJ Caruso-directed blockbuster will reach almost $55M by the end of Sunday and seems to be on track for $100M-$105M domestic.
Shia LaBeouf may be Hollywood’s biggest Under 25 male star, but 20-year-old Michael Cera is in the conversation thanks to Superbad ($121.5M cume) and Juno ($143.5M cume), but his new flick Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony) has opened below industry expectations The exceedingly well-reviewed teen comedy (71 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) is No. 3 for the day with $4.4M and that will likely translate to a less-than-expected $12M opening weekend. Director Peter Sollett’s first film was a quirky teen romance set in Lower Manhattan called Raising Victor Vargas, which earned five Independent Spirit Awards, so he had the perfect sensibility to make a movie like this work. Despite the soft opening, the Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist will still be very profitable with a production budget of only $10M.
The Richard Gere-Diane Lane tearjerker Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) is solidly entrenched at fourth for the day and the weekend. The Nicholas Sparks adaptation is luring Females 25 Plus to America’s multiplexes with about $2.4M on Friday and an anticipated second weekend of $7.35M, down just 45 percent. That will give Rodanthe a new cume of $25M or so by Monday morning.
The Ed Harris-directed Appaloosa (Warner Bros) is proving that America still loves a good Western. With a cast that includes Viggo Mortensen and Oscar winners Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons, this second directorial effort for Harris has expanded to 1,045 playdates with terrific results. The old-fashioned shoot-em-up seized $1.6M on Friday, and it is headed for a strong $5M weekend, good for fifth place.
David Zucker’s conservative comedy rant An American Carol (Vivendi) has surpassed industry expectations with $1.22M on its opening day. The movie, which makes sport of the uber liberal “documentarian” Michael Moore will likely sell $3.8M in tickets over the weekend for $2,325 Per Theatre Average. Although it was not screened for critics, L.A. Weekly’s Scott Foundas did manage to see it, and he says, “The movie’s level of political discourse makes Couric/Palin look like Frost/Nixon.” Regardless, it was not made for left coast critics, and there is clearly room at multiplexes for movies made by and for conservatives.
Ironically, holdover Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn), a Christian-themed film made by the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, will likely outperform An American Carol for the th-day despite being in its second week and showing at almost 800 fewer locations. The red state-friendly Fireproof will likely reach $4M for the frame for a new cumeree of almost $12.5M. This is a massive success for filmmaker and Sherwood Baptist Church Associate Pastor Alex Kendrick considering that the movie was made for only $500,000 and all of the profit will be funneled back into the church ministries.
From the Godly to the godless as the Bill Maher doc Religulous (Lionsgate), a nihilistic filmmaking exercise if there ever was one, will probably crack the top 10 for the weekend. Maher attacks religion generally, and Christianity specifically, in this comic doc, and it has generated a surprisingly strong $1.1M, which should translate to an impressive $3.5M despite being on only 502 screens. That would be an impressive $6,900+ Per Theatre Average.
In a rather hodgepodge weekend of releases, the remaining three titles are all disappointments to varying degrees. Universal’s feel-good Flash of Genius, the real-life story of Robert Kearns, who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, had the invention stolen by Ford and then sued the auto giant, scored about $655 per screen on Friday for an $729,000 gross. With generally positive reviews (59 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and a cast including Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear, Golden Globe nominee Lauren Graham and Oscar nominee Alan Alda, Flash of Genius will still only reach $2.32M for the three-day, and it will miss the top 10 altogether.
Blindness (Miramax), the dismally-reviewed new movie from Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) stumbled to an embarrassing $740,000 Friday and, for the weekend, $2M and a dismal $1,185 PTA is in the cards. (You know you are in trouble when the National Association of the Blind is protesting your movie.) Meanwhile, MGM’s How To Lose Friends & Alienate People starring the always-funny Simon Pegg is a non-starter with just $456,000 on opening day and a projected $1.4M for the three-day. That is a weekend Per Theatre of just $801.
STUDIO THREE-DAY ESTIMATES
1. NEW - Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) - $29M, $9,020 PTA, $29M cume
2. Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $17.7M, $5,034 PTA, $54.6M cume
3. NEW - Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony) - $12M, $4,957 PTA, $12M cume
4. Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) - $7.35M, $2,722 PTA, $25M cume
5. Appaloosa (Warner Bros) - $5M, $4,799PTA, $5.57M
6. Lakeview Terrace (Sony) - $4.5M, $1,748 PTA, $32.1M cume
7. Burn After Reading (Focus) - $4.08M, $1,703 PTA, $51.64M cume
8. Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn) - $4.06M, $4,776 PTA, $12.5M cume
9. NEW- An American Carol (Vivendi) – $3.8M, $2,325 PTA, $3.8M cume
10. NEW – Religulous (Lionsgate) - $3.5M, $6,972 PTA, $3.5M cume
11. NEW - Flash of Genius (Universal) - $2.32M, $2,120 PTA, $2.32M cume
12. NEW – Blindness (Miramax) - $2M, $1,185 PTA, $2M cume
*NEW – How To Lose Friends & Alienate People (MGM) - $14M, $801 PTA, $1.4M cume
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.