'The War With Grandpa’ starring Robert De Niro had unusual path to theaters

The film " The War With Grandpa" which features Cheech Marin, Robert De Niro, Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken, comes out in theaters Oct. 9, 2020. It was shot in Atlanta in 2017. This scene was shot at a metro Atlanta Skyzone. Contributed.

Credit: Ben Rothstein

Credit: Ben Rothstein

The film was shot in Atlanta in 2017 but was sidelined by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Family comedy “The War With Grandpa” starring Robert De Niro and a host of other notable actors — Christopher Walken, Rob Riggle, Uma Thurman, Jane Seymour, Cheech Marin — took a rather circuitous path to movie theaters this weekend.

It all began six years ago when 9-year-old Tre Peart read a 1980s kids book “The War With Grandpa,” written by Robert Kimmel Smith, and began hunting for a movie version that didn’t exist. Fortunately, his parents Marvin and Rosa Morris Peart are movie producers for Marro Media, and they liked their son’s pitch.

So, they purchased film rights to the book and sought to convince De Niro to join the project as the titular grandpa.

The Oscar-winning actor had just filmed a critically reviled comedy “Dirty Grandpa" that had been shot in metro Atlanta in 2015 and was initially turned off by the fact this film also had “grandpa” in the name, said Marvin Peart in an interview.

Marvin, now CEO of Brookdale Studios, said he told De Niro this would be a great way to introduce himself to a new generation of potential fans. “He said he was interested, but why don’t we try some new writers, so we hired two new writers who came up with a great new draft," he said. Ultimately, De Niro said yes, making it easy for the producers to convince the likes of Walken, Thurman and Seymour to jump aboard.

Walken told Marvin that he always wanted to reunite with De Niro. They hadn’t been on the same set together since “Deer Hunter” in 1978.

“The War With Grandpa” is light PG fare featuring cartoonish violence, goofy pranks and silly humor, targeting middle schoolers and up. De Niro plays widower Ed, who reluctantly moves into his daughter’s small home, forcing sixth-grader Peter (Oakes Fegley) into the crappy attic. Resentful, Peter executes a series of pranks to convince De Niro to cede his old bedroom, but De Niro fights back, with help from elderly friends played by Walken, Marin and Seymour.

The Pearts at first worked with the Weinstein Company for distribution, which seemed like a great idea at the time given the company’s pedigree.

The film was set to start production in February 2017 in Toronto. But Georgia, with its hefty tax credits, threw out an attractive last-second counter offer that convinced the producers to move the film to metro Atlanta, according to a Variety magazine story at the time. Tyler Perry Studios became home base, and they found a home in Grant Park for exteriors of the family’s primary residence.

The movie’s release date was pushed back multiple times, and by the time the film wrapped production in metro Atlanta in June 2017, it was scheduled to hit theaters in February 2018. Then a big bombshell came in October 2017: Harvey Weinstein paid off numerous women who had accused him of sexually assaulting them. This imbroglio quickly forced his company to declare bankruptcy and sell assets to another entity. This placed “The War With Grandpa” in legal limbo.

The Pearts worked with some Weinstein executives to create a new distribution company and were able to eventually take over the film and get the movie in theaters nearly three years later than expected.

The film tortures Thurman — who plays Peter’s mom — quite a bit early on as she gets whacked in the head by a drone and has a snake wrapped around her neck while driving. She later gets redemption and pays homage to “Kill Bill” during a scene tackling her daughter’s boyfriend.

Oakes Fegley (left) with Robert DeNiro (right) in the film "War With Grandpa" out October 9, 2020 in theaters. This scene in Grant Park was shot in the spring of 2017. CR: Marro Films

Credit: Ben Rothstein

Credit: Ben Rothstein

But De Niro’s character Ed (or more often, his stunt double) takes the brunt of the pain, falling out windows, having sealant on his face instead of shaving cream and almost getting crushed by a dead tree. Ed also drops a smartphone into a dead man’s coffin in a scene any fan of “The Three Stooges” would appreciate.

Tre said his favorite scene is from a local Skyzone trampoline park where Ed and his friends play an absurd game of dodgeball against Peter’s friends as a “winner-takes-all” competition for the bedroom. “I watched the actors mix it up with the stunt doubles and see Robert De Niro jump higher than Kobe Bryant,” Tre said. “It was a fun day.”

He said he’s psyched to finally see his idea land in movie theaters, and now at age 15, he is already taking classes to learn how to direct. He and his parents are already planning a sequel to “The War With Grandpa,” which the final scene sets up nicely.

The only challenge: the middle-school kids in the film are now already in high school, so the script will have to be modified to reflect some time passing.

Tre Peart, who came up with the idea of the movie "War With Grandpa," with star Oakes Fegley on the set in Atlanta in 2017. CR: Marro Films

Credit: Marro Films

Credit: Marro Films

MOVIE PREVIEW

“The War With Grandpa”

Starring Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman and Rob Riggle.

In theatres Oct. 9 nationwide.

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