Universal to moviegers re “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Memo from Universal marketing to American moviegoers: How would you like to see a sexy, sophisticated film about a smooth and tuxedoed Tom Hanks romancing the rich and super-fetching Julia Roberts over champagne and caviar while the man in the middle — the cerebral, schlumpy, moustachioed Phillip Seymour Hoffman — looks on apprehensively and wonders where the bathroom is so he can go take a leak while these two pitch woo as they conspire against the Soviet empire?

New Universal one-sheet for Charlie Wilson’s War, which is being previewed exclusively by Coming Soon.net

We’re just kidding about the Soviet empire, heh-heh. What Soviet empire….who, us? Why would we ever make a movie that has something to do with (cough, choke ) the Soviets? And please don’t believe any of those stories you might have read about Charlie Wilson’s War also being about….we can’t say it! And we won’t! Our movie is about three very light-hearted people having a grand old time being clever and clinking champagne glasses as they orchestrate deft political maneuvers.

We at Universal take the feelings of the American public seriously, and have therefore listened to and understood your determination to avoid Middle Eastern sand movies at all costs. Unlike certain online voices who’ve called you the “leave us alone!” ostrich brigade, we respect your wishes in this matter. Hence, our new one-sheet for Mike NicholsCharlie Wilson’s War. Please come and see our film. We don’t want to die like all those other Middle Eastern sand movies. Please…not us.

Okay, it slipped out. Our film has something do with (we hate using this word) Afghanistan. We don’t like to admit it because we know you guys aren’t into fine distinctions. Our film is set in the early 1980s — 20 years give or take before 9/11 — and we know you guys won’t give a damn because you don’t read reviews or in-depth articles or go online to learn about this or that film. (Michael Cieply‘s 10.28 N.Y. Times piece saying that many American moviegoers might have trouble telling the difference between Grace is Gone and In The Valley of Elah was very persuasive in this respect.)

Oh, and apologies for forgetting to put a question mark at the end of the copy line that reads “who said they couldn’t bring down the Soviet empire.” We don’t like question marks. They make people feel….we don’t know, inconclusive. What do you care, right? If you don’t read reviews or go online to learn stuff, why should you care about correct punctuation?

  • Ian Sinclair

    Rotten poster.

  • lazarus

    as if I wasn’t gunning for this one already. that lack of a question mark really, really bugs me. knowing that it was probably intentional bugs me even more.

    I want to rip Tom & Julia’s smarmy faces off with my bare hands.

  • Daniel Tayag

    It’s just as ugly as the poster for the Bucket List.

  • Andrew


  • That reminds me of when WB shoehorned Joe Pesci into the Lethal Weapon 3 poster, likely for no other reason than to fulfill a contractual obligation.

    Oh, and Wells, after a week of blasting others for writing yet another story about the public avoiding political films, you felt the need to write one yourself?

  • gruver1

    Wells to Massey: The angle of the “Charlie Wilson’s War” one-sheet necessitated comment, I think.

  • I guess I’m a little confused regarding who you’re so pissed off about, Jeff. Is it the mass audience who allegedly don’t want to be reminded of the war? Is it the columnists who keep reporting on this alleged phenomenon? Or is it the movie studios who now appear to be caving in to said alleged phenomenon?

    My sense is that you’re saying A) the American public should embrace any movie that has anything to do with the war because it’s Important and B) the studios should continue to shove it down their throats whether they like it or not because it’s The Right Thing To Do and C) entertainment reporters should shut up about it either way.

    What am I missing and where do you fit in to all of this?

  • Hash

    cj, I wonder if he would be as up in arms as he has been if there were a series of films released that, God forbid, showed some positive outcomes of this mess or even portrayed our soldiers in positive lights?

  • Geoff

    That lack of ? is one big fuck up.

  • You’re probably right Hash, but I’m not trying to start another political argument. Even taking his stance on the war for granted, I’m a little mystified about what his beef is here.

    It’s a pretty crumby message poster, but it’s a pretty good poster if you really like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. So this is the first time in history a piece of movie marketing has been dumbed down for a mass audience? (and don’t take that as an insult movie marketing people. I come in peace. I’m here to learn from you and return to my home planet.)

  • Movie Watcher

    Shouldn’t there be a tank, a gun, bullets, and maybe Hanks in the background? Is it possible to leave Roberts off of the poster? Maybe, in the background, how about the White House or congress, or the american flag? Something, anything, is better than this!

  • Jay T.

    Artistically I don’t like the poster, but from a marketing standpoint it will probably get the job done.

  • JD

    Who really cares what the poster or trailers look like? If history has taught us anything, it’s that movies with cool trailers (ie. Little Children) or cool posters (ie. Out of Sight) invariably tank at the box office. I don’t think this poster looks that bad, but even if it does, it’s all in the name of getting people into theatres for a potentially interesting new film.

  • I’m also put off by the bottom tag line: “You think we could make all this up?”

    Grammar geeks, correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t it be: “Do you think we could make all of this up?”

    If this were the poster for Bio-Dome 2, I wouldn’t notice. It seems they’re going for a modicum of class, though.

  • Yeah, what JD said. I’m repeating what I’ve said elsewhere, but movie posters and trailers really aren’t aimed at those of us who see tons of movies and spend our free time frequenting movie message boards. They’re aimed at people who see a handful of movies every year. The fact that we don’t like a poster means nothing.

    Who here has ever said “I’d really like to see that movie, but jeez, that poster is ass. I guess I’ll skip it.” ?

  • MichaelC

    First, that is one ugly poster.

    Second, doesn’t it hurt the film more than help it misleading people like this? Say, based on star power, they succeed in tricking some people into seeing a political film they would have otherwise avoided. That would breed lousy word of mouth about how the fun looking Hanks/Roberts film was all about Afghanistan. At the same time, they’re miss a chance to entice any filmgoers who might be up for a clever political movie made by first rate talent.

    When has confusing people ever worked in a film’s favor? Why be such cowards? Casting Hanks and Roberts is the insurance policy, after that, sell the film you’ve got.

  • T. S. Idiot

    PSH looks like a younger, shorter Jack.

  • arch451

    Those three actors have never looked worse than they do on that poster.

  • bachelorcool

    “You think we could make all this up?”


    An awful ad line that smacks of desperation – you can almost see the nervous perspiration of marketeers dripping from the letters.

  • DavidF

    It’s an ugly poster but are we really surprised that the marketing people are going to pass off a chance put put TOM HANKS and JULIA ROBERTS on the poster so brazenly?

    I’m betting Hoffman will be the best thing about the movie but I’m not expecting his mug to dominate the campaign….that’s showbiz.

  • Because of typically bad photoshopping, it kinda looks like Tom Hanks is carrying a mini-Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

  • T. Holly

    I love this poster, it looks like a photo spread from the ’80, I’m spritzing a little musk oil in honor, the line could have been, “a stiff drink, a little perfume, a lot of nerve,” eh, maybe not.

  • T. Holly

    the other thing it looks like is a rorschach test pattern

  • Zimmergirl

    Right because GOD FORBID the movie studio should try to make money for their movie. GOD FORBID. Like this website is pure when it comes to promoting films in order to get ad revenue. *LOL*

    PLEASE. You people are pathetic hypocrites.

    Talk about having it in for a movie.

  • It makes the film look like a Blake Edwards comedy with Hoffman resembling the imitation-Clouseau detective in VICTOR/VICTORIA.

  • For a Christmas release the poster’s friggin’ brilliant. Leaving only two hurdles for its success:

    1. Is it any good?

    2. Is the subtext (or text) riddled with the same tired lefty, anti-war, anti-American sentiments that so far have proven unable to attract even tired, anti-war, anti-American types into theatres?

  • bents75

    Dirty Harry : Why do anti-war and anti-American have to be one and the same?

    I really can’t think of a more morally repugnant statement to make than that.

    I for one am anti-war, and I’m damn proud to be an American at the same time.

    I don’t consider myself to be a religious person, but if you do (and I’m assuming so, since you’re so concerned with the moral imperative of saving Iraqis from themselves), your entire agenda is a disgrace to the very Judeo-Christian values you claim to defend.

  • alynch

    So, they put a question mark on one tagline but not the other. That’s just wierd.

  • so far have proven unable to attract even tired, anti-war, anti-American types”

    The most revealing thing you’ve posted yet DH.

    Like I stated, neo-cons only see the world as a big Stratego game and WAR is the only option.

    Peace is for pussies. Like Jesus.

  • But here’s what religious neo-cons do worship: death and devastation:

    “As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will.” Pray for what? Bombing Iran.

    And these psychopaths get the presdient’s open ear:

    Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest honour, by President George W. Bush in 2004, Mr Podhoretz later sought a rare one-on-on audience with the US commander-in-chief. They met in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the spring.

    The author of the recent World War IV: the Long Struggle Against Islamofacsism spent about 35 minutes outlining his case for air strikes against Iran as Mr Bush’s then chief adviser Karl Rove took notes.

    “Whether I had any effect on him I truly don’t know but I sure tried my best to persuade him,” he said.

  • Great, Christian. From here on out, I’m only going to look at this poster and see Daddy Hanks carrying Baby Hoffman in one of those baby-carrying pouches.

    That is one damn fine lookin’ baby.

  • Hah, Baby Hoffman. It’s Look Who’s Talking 3.

  • DarthCorleone

    I think y’all are misreading that first part. “Who” said it. It’s not a question. You know – the guy on first? I guess Philip Seymour Hoffman is playing him.

    (Sorry – couldn’t resist after that other thread about effective, funny, oblivious stupidity.)


  • Seriously, I can’t look at that poster the same now either. Draw a couple of lines down Hoffman’s chin out of the corners of his mouth and he’s a ventriloquist’s dummy.

  • wda

    Charlie McCarthy’s War

  • In fact, I don’t equate anti-war with anti-Americanism, and apologize if my sentence structure indicated such.

  • wda: that’s the punchline I was looking for! Nice.

  • lazarus

    If it’s only about putting asses in the seats, and misrepresenting your film is just part of the game, why not just call it Charlie Wilson’s Whore and hope people will think it’s a Pretty Woman sequel? Hoffman looks like a pimp anyway.

  • D.Z.

    Hash: “cj, I wonder if he would be as up in arms as he has been if there were a series of films released that, God forbid, showed some positive outcomes of this mess or even portrayed our soldiers in positive lights?”

    They already had a film like that. It was called Triumph of the Will…

    Josh: Premiere must be run by former Bush people, because in spite of tanking badly this year, they actually ranked the Universal execs near the top of their power player list.

  • Pinko Punko

    I think the lack of question market is fine- the point is not “who?” but rather a statement of fact- the sentence is implying that they DID somehow defeat the bad boys. The punctuation is correct for how the sentence would be phrased verbally

  • bmcintire

    I don’t know, both verbally and textually, “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” begs for a question mark.

  • bmcintire

    Technically, the only sentences beginning with the “Five W’s and an H” that aren’t obligated to end with a question mark (and are grammatically aligned with exclamation points) start with “How” and “What”:

    What an ugly poster!
    How terrible this film looks!

  • Pinko Punko

    “Whachu talking about Willis?” beyond being a catchphrase, is usually an actual question and not rhetorical. I think it is OK to present a rhetorical question implying a particular fact negating assumed disbelief as a statement, and not a question. Also, from the random discussions about this movie, it seems to me the poster actually suggests what I the marketers want “early 80s period piece, big-hairish, suggesting the South, unknown other topic” that topic being “WHAM- AFGHANISTAN, FUCKERS! YOU ALREADY BOUGHT YOUR POPCORN! Hey, you might still like the movie, why not stick around, you already got a sitter.”

  • Colbydog

    The book and movie are ridiculously nearsighted and do a great disservice to our historic perspective. Summed up with final sentence both written and spoken by Hanks, it perfectly illustrates how the truth is filtered to tell only the story or perspective of the hero, while the real truth lies buried in the endgame.

    “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. And then we fucked up the endgame.”

    Anyone realize the endgame was our arming and creating binLaden and AlQaeda, which led to 9\11 and our current terror-ridden world?

    gee-kinda wrecks the warm-fuzzy afterglow of the film doesn’t it?