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Kevin Hart's 'The Upside' faces two roadblocks: Harvey Weinstein's connection, and Hart himself

Gary Thompson, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Entertainment News

In one of last year's biggest entertainment stories, Kevin Hart lost his much-coveted gig hosting the Oscars after his homophobic tweets resurfaced.

But not all career wounds are self-inflicted.

Hart had nothing to do with the problem involving his new movie "The Upside" -- in fact, he's reported to have given one of his best performances in this remake of the 2011 French hit "The Intouchables" (Variety, in its middling review of the film, says he gives "a rangier performance that adds sincerity and heart to his manically funny persona"), filmed in Philadelphia nearly two years ago, and featuring Hart as a streetwise guy hired as a caregiver to a wealthy man (Bryan Cranston) with a disability.

The script-to-screen journey of "The Upside," though, turned out to have a major downside: It was produced by the Weinstein Co., and when Harvey Weinstein was hit with multiple allegations of harassment, and ultimately a charge of sexual assault, the company slipped into the limbo of bankruptcy, tying up a slate of movies.

That limbo included "The Upside," now extricated from its prolonged legal entanglement and ready to open on Friday -- significantly modified from the version screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 (to mostly decent reviews). The Toronto version was eight minutes longer than the version that played at the Philadelphia Film Festival in October. Eight minutes is an eternity in film terms.

The movie was shot in March 2017 in Philadelphia and Sun Center Studios in Aston, Pa., where I had a chance to talk to cast and crew, who were buzzing about the Hart's ambitious leap into the realm of serious acting, his freakish levels of energy, and his habit of rising before dawn to commence the first of several daily workouts.

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"He works out like crazy. I mean like twice a day. Plus push-ups between takes. He's up at five. Every day," Cranston said before aiming a deadpan remark at his costar, seated next to him. "I, of course, am up at 4. I let him sleep in."

Hart laughed, and was prompted to note how lucky he is to take on the rigors of a dramatic role with costars, including Nicole Kidman and Julianna Margulies, who've welcomed him and made him feel relaxed.

"This has been surreal for me," Hart said of working with Emmy, Golden Globe and Oscar winners. "To step into this movie, and not to know what to expect, and have these people go out of their way to make me feel at home, it's the kind of energy that makes you want to do your best, and I hope that's what I've done."

Hart's role had been much sought after in 2016 -- rumored to have been considered by Idris Elba and Jamie Foxx, among others. Hart got the job, even though he'd built his superstar status on crowd-pleasing comedies like "Ride Along" and "Central Intelligence."

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