It's going to be a busy night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood Tuesday night. Paramount had initially set a footage presentation for 6pm in tandem with AFI Fest. Then a secret screening was added to the slate following that event. Then, suddenly, Paramount decided to run with a full exhibition of “Selma,” while AFI Fest has revealed the title of the secret screening: Clint Eastwood's “American Sniper.”
I'd consider all of that a major coup for the festival, which only had opener J.C. Chandor's “A Most Violent Year” and Rupert Wyatt's “The Gambler” set for major debuts. Now they get two more, with “Foxcatcher” still set to make good on pulling out last year as the closing night gala. That will leave Rob Marshall's “Into the Woods” (screening for press Nov. 22) and Angelina Jolie's “Unbroken” (Nov. 30, though not before a Sydney premiere) as the two big players left to reveal in this year's Oscar race. Unless you're holding out big hopes for “Annie” or “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”
“Clint Eastwood is an American icon,” said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale. Duh. “His are stories that stand the test of time, and we are proud and honored to unveil his latest masterpiece.”
“Masterpiece.” Well, we'll see. The last time Eastwood came to AFI Fest with a big potential prestige play, it was “J. Edgar,” en route to zero Oscar nominations. But it's nice for things to align for the film, which tells the story of Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). A Veterans Day premiere sure sounds serendipitous.
“American Sniper” opens in limited release Dec. 25.