HOLLYWOOD (CNS) - The psychological thriller “The Little Things'' today will become the first of Warner Bros.' entire 2021 film slate to begin streaming on HBO Max the same day it is released in theaters.
Set in 1990, “The Little Things'' stars Denzel Washington as Kern County Sheriff's Office Deputy Joe “Deke'' Deacon, who is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick trip to retrieve evidence to convict a suspect in Bakersfield but instead becomes embroiled in the search for the killer who is terrorizing the city.
The cast also includes two other Oscar winners, Rami Malek, who portrays Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detective Jim Baxter, who leads the hunt for the killer, and Jared Leto, who plays the prime suspect, enigmatic appliance store deliveryman Albert Sparma.
“The Little Things'' is directed by John Lee Hancock from a script he wrote nearly 30 years ago.
“I came up with the story in the early 1990s, when the theaters were full of buddy cop movies,'' said Hancock, who also directed the sports dramas “The Rookie'' and “The Blind Side'' and the historical dramas “Saving Mr. Banks,'' “The Founder'' and “The Highwaymen.''
“I wanted to do something a little different and give it more of a 1970s movie feel.''
Washington said the script “was a good read, a really interesting story I hadn't seen before and a character who was scarred, cynical, guarded. If he ever had any sort of faith, he's lost it, but he goes on what's almost a spiritual journey through the sort of hell I think maybe only a cop could understand, and I found that really interesting.''
Malek said “one of the reasons I gravitated to this story is because it doesn't have your usual Hollywood ending. It leaves you questioning your idea of how we look at people -- criminals, even ourselves -- and what happens when we get extremely obsessed with something. After I read it, I kept turning it over in my mind.''
Leto said when he first read the script, “I really was taken in by the characters and he did a great job of keeping you on the edge of your seat. The story poses questions not just about guilt or innocence, but assumptions, identity. It was surprising and I think people are going to be shocked by the ending.''
Washington said he prepared for his role by watching the A&E documentary series about homicide investigators “The First 48.''
“It was basically like homework for me, watching it over and over and observing the behavior of the different people who investigate the crimes and how they get the so-called smart criminals to fold,'' Washington said.
Hancock said producer Mark Johnson -- who produced the 1993 crime drama “A Perfect World,'' which Hancock wrote the screenplay for, “The Alamo,'' which Hancock both wrote and directed and “The Rookie'' -- would ask him “every few years'' about producing the screenplay for “The Little Things,'' “and I would always tell him I was not quite there yet, not ready to do it.''
“Then I started having discussions with friends who had loved the script and urged me to revisit it,'' Hancock said.
Once they decided to make the film, Hancock and Johnson debated about whether to contemporize it for a modern audience.
“That was one of our biggest questions,'' Johnson said. ”When he wrote it initially, it was not a period piece. He had done his research based upon detectives working in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department in the early 1990s, and it's set in 1990. But we're making it now, so do we update it? In the end, we left it alone for a lot of reasons.''
A main advantage of keeping it in 1990 was from a technology standpoint, Hancock said.
“We didn't have cellphones yet, you had to use pay phones or pagers, and it was before widespread use of DNA evidence, which changed everything about crime scene work,'' Hancock said. “So the lack of today's technology alone, I think, makes this particular story that much more compelling.''
To re-create the Los Angeles of 1990, the film had to be shot in areas “that hadn't seen as much redevelopment but still had an emphatic sense of place,'' production designer Michael Corenblith said.
“One of the criteria we applied to every location was, if this could in any way possible be replicated in Georgia or Louisiana, then we needed to keep looking,'' Corenblith said.
The film was shot in an area stretching from Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert to Ventura, including Pasadena, Alhambra, Whittier, Santa Clarita and Skid Row.
To Corenblith and his team, “The Little Things'' was “a movie largely about pagers, pay phones and the lack of being able to know where everyone is at all times the way we do today, and how those gaps in time can be exploited.''
“We had tremendous fun recreating the technology from 1990 – word processors, fax machines, multi-button landline phones ... all the things that would help the audience understand -- or remind them of -- the communication tools and techniques of the time.''
After announcing in November “Wonder Woman 1984'' would begin streaming on HBO Max on Christmas Day, the same day it would open in theaters, Warner Bros. announced in December all 17 films it will release in 2021 will be streamed on HBO Max for a 31-day period beginning the day they are released in theaters to both “support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren't quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films,'' WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group CEO Ann Sarnoff said.
The next Warner Bros. film to be simultaneously released to theaters and streamed on HBO Max will be “Judas and the Black Messiah.'' The story of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O'Neal was selected as one of 2020's 10 best films by the American Film Institute. It will be released in theaters and streamed on HBO Max beginning Feb. 12.
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