The answer, improbably, is Harvey Weinstein.
Where I live, in Brooklyn’s outer reaches, subway posters for The Upside started showing up in early December, almost exactly when one of the movie’s stars, Kevin Hart, was making headlines for the old tweets and subsequent controversy that sunk his Oscar hosting gig.
The timing was unfortunate. But it wasn’t the first timing snag The Upside had encountered.
The film is a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano and starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy. That movie was a massive hit in France, eventually becoming the No. 2 box office hit in the country and garnering eight César nominations (the Césars are like the French Oscars). Sy won in the Best Actor category.
The Weinstein Company / Lighthouse Entertainment On the left, François Cluzet and Omar Sy in The Intouchables; on the right, Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston in The Upside, the American remake.
The Intouchables is part buddy comedy, part drama: A wealthy paraplegic man named Philippe hires a black ex-convict named Driss to be his close, on-call personal assistant, and the two form (you guessed it) an unlikely friendship. It earned some raves and some boos, and ended up being the highest-grossing non-English-language movie ever, making more than $281 million worldwide.
Months before The Intouchables had even opened in France, though, the distribution rights in English-speaking countries, Scandinavian countries, and China were acquired by the Weinstein Company. Yes, the company founded by Bob Weinstein and his now-infamous brother Harvey, whose spectacular fall from grace was still more than six years away. And they started to plan an English-language remake.
The English-language remake