Director David Frankel Talks Collateral Beauty and Miami Film Festival

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The holidays are a time for family, friends, food, and yes — big, star-studded films. So it’s no surprise that Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Keira Knightley, is being released on December 16, just in time for the holiday season.

Not without its competition, Collateral Beauty is being released the same day as the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise, and in the two weeks following its release, will compete against the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt’s sci-fi blockbuster Passengers; the starry animated movie Sing; and the Bryan Cranston-James Franco comedy Why Him?.

But of all the upcoming releases, none feel quite as tailored for the holidays as director David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty, which screened for Miami Film Society three weeks before the film’s theatrical release with Frankel in attendance.

“The DNA of movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol are baked into Collateral Beauty,” Frankel says.

“It’s not literally a story that bears a lot of resemblance, but it’s very moving. it’s got a spiritual side; it’s set in this magical time of year in New York City during Christmas; and it’s about people forging connections, which is what the great holiday movies are about.”


Miami Film Festival Executive Director Jaie Laplante and director David Frankel at Miami Film Society advance screening of Collateral Beauty.

The film tells the story of Howard (Smith), a successful New York ad executive who hasn’t been the same since the passing of his child two years prior. Withdrawn and severely depressed, as a coping mechanism, he spends his time writing letters to what he feels are the three things that connect every single human being on Earth: Love, Time, and Death. But when Love, Time, and Death appear in human form to reach out to Howard, it changes his life – and his perspective – in profound ways.

With Love, Time, and Death played respectively by Keira Knightley, newcomer Jacob Latimore, and Helen Mirren, it’s truly the cast of a lifetime. And when it comes to how they were able to secure such a renowned cast, Frankel gives total credit to the film’s script, penned by Allan Loeb.

[It’s a] great script. It’s the kind of movie that studios don’t make anymore,” says Frankel. “You make up lists for [who you want to play] the characters, and everyone who was at the top of our list said yes. It’s our dream cast.”

And this isn’t the first time Frankel has worked with an A-list cast of this nature. After all, he’s the man behind the 2006 hit film The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep in a performance she would go on to get a Best Actress nomination for. But at the Miami Film Festival, there’s one David Frankel film in particular that’ll always hold a very special place in our heart: Miami Rhapsody, which had its Florida Premiere at Miami Film Festival back in 1995, and then was celebrated with a cast reunion at the Festival in 2013.

Carla Gugino, Jeremy Piven, David Frankel, and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at Miami Rhapsody 30th Anniversary Celebration presented by Miami Film Festival.

Carla Gugino, Jeremy Piven, David Frankel, and Sarah Jessica Parker at Miami Film Festival’s Miami Rhapsody 30th Anniversary Celebration.

“That was magical,” Frankel said of the 2013 Miami Film Festival cast reunion. “On most movies you really forge a bond, and on [Miami Rhapsody] we really all connected in a way that we became family. And of course I’ve worked with Sarah Jessica [Parker] and Jeremy [Piven] over the years – Entourage with Jeremy and Sex and the City with Sarah Jessica – so we’ve stayed in touch. Looking back, they were at the beginning of what became huge careers, and it was very satisfying to spend an evening with them now that they’re huge iconic stars and see that they haven’t changed much; they’re still the same great people underneath.”

A Miami native himself, Frankel has always been an avid supporter of the Miami film scene, not only when it comes to filming here – both Miami Rhapsody and Marley & Me were filmed on location in Miami – but when it comes to supporting the Miami Film Festival and bringing Festival audiences first looks at his films.

“I’m so thrilled with what [Festival Director] Jaie [Laplante] has done for the Festival. He has reinvigorated it – it’s bigger and better every year,” says Frankel. “I love how international it is…It’s fantastic that there’s such a passion in our community for movies. And anything that feeds that is really good.”

Collateral Beauty opens in theaters on December 16.

Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen is Miami Film Festival's Co-Director of Programming. She also runs the Festival’s membership level for young professionals, CineClub. Learn more about Lauren on Programmers.