Stephen Frears’ films haven’t all been very commercially successful, but they’ve let him bring his unique outlook on life to the masses. That’s attracted many of entertainment’s elite to his projects, from Albert Finney to Tim Roth to Glenn Close to Helen Mirren. He’s wrangled an unlikely but interesting trio for his next picture called Lay The Favorite, which is based on the life of cocktail-waitress-turned-professional-gambler Beth Raymer. She was one of the finest risk-takers in the world after she learned to manipulate the sportsbook system of Las Vegas with a group of geeky geezers. After she falls in love, she begins to re-evalute her life choices and the business she’s in.
The film already has a cool cast, with Rebecca Hall portraying Raymer, Bruce Willis playing, presumably, one of the “geeky fiftyish men” as Variety puts it (I’m already conjuring images of Death Becomes Her) and Catherine Zeta-Jones playing his wife. Justin Timberlake may also have a part, but today’s big update is that Joshua Jackson has been officially booked for a role. He could be filling in for Timberlake, but I cannot confirm that at this time. I’d assume that Jackson/Timberlake will be the love interest for Hall’s Raymer and if that’s the case I’m sure she’d rather work with Justin, but Josh should do just fine.
When I first read the premise for the project, Curtis Hanson’s Lucky You came to mind because it similarly centered on a pro-poker player trying to balance his love-life and battle his personal problems. That film didn’t fare too well, though probably because it had the heaviest competition any movie could face (it was released on May 4th, 2007 – against Spider-Man 3). However, gambling films, including 21, Rounders and The Color of Money have generally been well-received and this one has an fresh dynamic as it will focus on a female protagonist. And Hall is long-overdue for a starring role after being hidden behind Scarlett Johansson twice in The Prestige and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Lay The Favorite could be a sweet surprise if balanced properly; Frears should be up to the task.