Awards season has a last-minute entry into the mix. Well, maybe. Warner Bros. revealed today that “The Mule,” directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, will have a wide release on Dec. 14. That means you can speculate on its Oscar prospects even though the studio is already trying to lower expectations.
“The Mule” is an original story by writer Nick Schenk (“Gran Torino“) about a 90-year-old horticulturist (Eastwood) who is caught transporting millions of dollars worth of cocaine through Michigan for a Mexican drug cartel. The film also stars Diane Wiest, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Taissa Farminga. Cooper, who also stars and directed WB’s “A Star is Born,” has championed that the film get a year-end release so Eastwood can join him on the awards circuit. The duo also collaborated on Eastwood’s Best Picture and Best Actor nominated “American Sniper” in 2014.
As noted earlier, however, the studio made sure both trades Variety and Deadline diminished the film’s awards chances saying it was much closer to a commercially friendly “Gran Torino” than “Sniper” or, say, “Million Dollar Baby.” Of course, many of us remember that during “Gran Torino’s” run there were a significant number of Academy members who felt after the nominations were announced that particular film should have landed a Best Picture nod. Basically, “Torino” peaked after a majority of ballots were submitted that year. Seemingly last minute December releases can always be tricky although “Million Dollar” is a textbook case of doing it right. It’s also the last film to release past Dec. 1 and win Best Picture (“The Shape of Water” opened on Dec. 1).
There is no word on when “The Mule” will be ready to screen or when it will premiere. AFI Fest has locked down opening and closing films this year in “On the Basis of Sex” and “Mary, Queen of Scots,” but Eastwood has debuted both “Sniper” and “J. Edgar” there in recent years so don’t be surprised if it is one of the official galas announced in the weeks to come.
“The Mule” is currently scheduled to open nationwide on Dec. 14.