Poker’s Greatest Movie, Rounders, Celebrates 25th Anniversary
Rounders, considered by many the best poker movie of all-time, is celebrating an anniversary this week, which is exactly 25 years after it was first released. What's more, PokerNews has a weekend's worth of content to celebrate!
The iconic film starring Matt Damon and Ed Norton wasn't originally a box office hit, but it grew into a cult classic following the poker boom during the 2000s. When the movie first came out, poker wasn't near as popular as it is today. As such, it only did $22.9 million overall at the box office. Rush Hour, in comparison, did over $244 million and was released one week after Rounders.
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Why Poker World Loves Rounders
Putting aside the ho-hum box office numbers, Rounders is and always will be an iconic poker flick, and one that poker players all around the world will watch at least once or twice a year.
There are a number of reasons why poker players are so in love with Rounders. One of them being the star-studded cast full of award-winning actors. The storyline, written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, is relatable for many poker players, especially those who've grinded the underground scene.
Damon (Mike McDermott) plays a skilled poker player who quit the game after getting cleaned out by Russian mobster Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) for law school. McDermott's friend, Lester “Worm” Murphy (Norton), upon being released from prison, would con McDermott into getting back into poker and colluding together in some juicy underground games.
By doing so, McDermott ended up single as his girlfriend, Jo (Gretchen Mol), didn't approve of his gambling habits. Inevitably, McDermott chose the dangerous New York underground poker lifestyle over his relationship, which led him to a rematch for it all — his life and money — against his rival, Teddy KGB.
PokerNews reached out to the Rounders screenwriters prior to our 25th anniversary celebration, but they are unable to speak with the media due to the current Hollywood writer's strike.
Rounders Movie Interesting Factoids
- Original private screening date was August 25, 1998 (Los Angeles, California)
- Rounders was released to the public on September 11, 1998 in the US.
- Rounders was just the 79th highest grossing movie in 1998. Titanic topped the charts at $600 million.
- Brian Koppelman made a brief cameo in the movie he wrote.
- Poker Hall of Famers Erik Seidel, Johnny Chan, and Bobby Baldwin all appeared in the movie.
- The story was set in New York, but some parts of the film were actually shot in New Jersey.
- During a scene next to a New York hot dog stand, Norton ate 17 hot dogs before the director was satisfied with the take.
- McDermott's girlfriend, played by Gretchen Mol, was originally written for Neve Campbell.
Will We Ever See a Rounders II?
Koppelman, a poker fan, has long said he's open to creating a Rounders II, and the poker community would flock to theaters immediately upon release. But don't count on it happening any time soon, or ever.
There are many challenges involved, such as getting the original cast back together 25 years later for a remake. But if it were to one day happen, the writers will have some questions to answer, such as how did McDermott end up at the World Series of Poker (WSOP)? Did he win a bracelet and reconcile with Jo? What about Worm? Has he straightened out or is he still dealing from the bottom of the deck and going in and out of jail?
Koppelman has teased the possibility of a Rounders II a few times, but hasn't been able to make it happen just yet. There are some fans of the movie who don't want a sequel after all these years as they believe it would be difficult to replicate the greatness of the first Rounders. Others, however, have been waiting 25 years to find out what the heck ever happened to Mike McDermott, once a young up-and-comer in poker.
In 2013, convicted sexual predator and disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein said that Miramax Films, which distributed Rounders in 1998, had plans to create sequels and TV shows based on hit films such as Rounders and Good Will Hunting, another Matt Damon classic.
Damon and Norton, to promote the movie, competed in the 1998 World Series of Poker Main Event. Neither cashed, but Damon had a memorable exit, busting with pocket kings against the pocket aces of poker legend Doyle Brunson.
The Academy Award-winning actor also competed in a 2007 WSOP event and appeared on the ESPN feature table where he put on his worst acting performance since The Legend of Bagger Vance with a full house.
Damon's had far more hits than misses when it comes to acting, and Rounders is certainly a hit, especially to the poker community. Over the next few days, PokerNews will continue celebrating the quarter century anniversary of the best poker movie of all-time on social media and in a special podcast that you won't want to miss.
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