Billy Ray called “somehow heartbreak feels good in a place like this” the best line he’s ever written.
Screenwriter Billy Ray, known for projects ranging from the Oscar-nominated feature ‘Captain Phillips’ to the 2012 YA tentpole ‘The Hunger Games’, left an indelible mark on the post-lockdown movie season when he wrote this excellent AMC ad featuring Nicole Kidman. The cult-favorite commercial began airing on TV in September 2021, before becoming a staple of the AMC theater experience.
“I worked with Nicole before [on 2015’s ‘Secret in Their Eyes’] and, obviously, I was a fan, an admirer and a friend,” Ray explained of his involvement. in a recent interview with Variety, celebrating the ad’s first anniversary. “She had been invited by AMC to do a commercial and wanted my help. I said “OK”, of course, because it’s Nicole.
Working with producers Jeff and Tim Cronenweth to render an appropriately over-the-top welcome message for moviegoers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ray said he was told “it would basically be Nicole who would have looks amazing and would fit in a movie theatre. I knew the idea had to be to welcome people back into the cinematic experience after too much time away.
The first draft of the spot took 15 minutes to compose, with only a few more minutes here and there for revisions. And yet, Ray says it’s arguably the most-watched material he’s ever written.
“It’s been seen by hundreds of millions of people,” Ray told Variety, recalling the moment he first realized the ad had amassed a loyal following around the world. “I started noticing on Twitter, like, ‘Whoa, people are tweeting about this. This picture of Nicole is everywhere. Someone on Twitter was wearing a T-shirt with the picture on it. [of Nicole] and the line “Somehow grief feels good in a place like this.” I ordered 10.”
Ray says the ad resonated “because people need movie stars. And people need movies. And they didn’t realize how much they missed those two things until they came back. Something about Nicole as a representative of that. He’s a pure movie star.
Earlier this month, Kidman renewed his contract as the public face of “that indescribable feeling” and agreed to represent the theater chain for another year. Ray was also tapped to write another AMC commercial, this time starring Nicole and other high-profile actors.
“It’s kind of my favorite line I’ve ever written in my life,” Oscar nominee Billy Ray said: “Somehow grief feels good in a place like this. ” When asked if a specific movie was behind that line, Ray replied, No, Nicole inspired that line. Nicole inspired every word I wrote.
You can read Ray’s full interview on Variety and rewatch the legendary ad below: