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 that truly excellent AMC ad starring Nicole Kidman. The cult-favorite commercial first began airing on television in September 2021, before becoming a staple of the AMC theater-going experience.
“I worked with Nicole before [on 2015’s ‘Secret in Their Eyes’] and, obviously, I was a fan and admirer and friend,” Ray explained of his involvement in a recent interview with Variety, celebrating the ad’s one-year anniversary. “She had been asked by AMC to do an ad and wanted my help with it. 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 film lovers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ray said he was told “that it was basically going to be Nicole looking amazing and walking into a movie theater. I knew the idea had to be welcoming people back to 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 is without question the most widely viewed material he has ever written.
“It’s been seen by hundreds of millions of people,” Ray told Variety, recalling when he first realized the ad had amassed a loyal following across the world. “I started to notice on Twitter, like, ‘Whoa, people are tweeting about this. That image of Nicole is everywhere.’ Someone on Twitter was wearing a T-shirt with the image [of Nicole] and the line ‘Somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this.’ I ordered 10 of them.”
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 got to go back. Something about Nicole as a representative of that. She’s such a pure movie star.”
Earlier this month, Kidman renewed her contract as the public face of “that indescribable feeling” and agreed to represent the theater chain for another year. Ray too was called on to write another AMC ad, this time featuring Nicole and more A-list actors.
“It’s kind of my favorite line I ever wrote in my life,” the Oscar-nominated Billy Ray said of: “Somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this.” When asked if a specific movie was behind that line, Ray said: No, Nicole inspired that line. Nicole inspired every word I wrote.”
You can read Ray’s complete interview on Variety and re-watch the legendary ad below: