When Will Packer produces a film, his mom, Birice Packer, and her church friends typically head to the BayWalk Muvico to watch the premiere. But for Packer's latest project, Mom is getting an upgrade.
"She's still got her church friends, but she's going to make them jealous this time," said Packer, 34. "I'm bringing her to New York, and she's going to go to the premiere with me and Beyonce."
As in, Beyonce Beyonce.
Packer, a graduate of St. Petersburg High School, was approached by Screen Gems to produce the suspense thriller Obsessed, which stars Beyonce Knowles as a wife fighting to keep Ali Larter's femme fatale character from stealing her husband, played by Idris Elba. It opens Friday.
The credits list producer Will Packer and executive producers Beyonce Knowles and Matthew Knowles — meaning Packer was on set daily, hashing out the movie scene by scene. Beyonce and her dad supplied her big name, music for the sound track and marketing know-how. But the A-lister was no diva on set, Packer said.
"When you're working with a huge, global star like Beyonce, you don't know what to expect," said the single dad, who scored big with his 9- and 5-year-olds when he brought them to the Los Angeles studio to meet the star. "I have to tell you, I was so pleasantly surprised because she showed up with an absolute perfect attitude and a tremendous work ethic. No, she didn't bring a huge entourage. She knew all her lines, and she showed up ready to work. She gave it 110 percent, and when you work with Beyonce you see why she's so successful, because she's such a perfectionist."
Packer already had some experience working with singers-turned-actors, having produced Chris Brown in Stomp the Yard (2007), This Christmas (2007) and the January 2010 release Takers, a heist flick co-starring Elba, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon and T.I. But would Packer work with Brown again, post-Rihanna?
"Absolutely. Without a doubt," Packer said. "I wish the best for him, and so I'll let that run its course, but I will absolutely work with him again."
Packer produced Stomp, Christmas, The Gospel (2005) and a handful of other movies via Rainforest Films, the Atlanta production house he runs with his former Florida A&M classmate Rob Hardy. One of the duo's first films, the 2000 erotic thriller Trois, had a meager budget of $250,000. Stomp's allowance was $15 million. Packer declined to reveal the cost of making Obsessed but said that at the time, it was his most expensive project to date.
Even after working on big-budget blockbusters, someday Packer would like to shoot a film in his hometown. About four times a year he returns to Tampa Bay, where mom Birice, his grandmother and aunts still live.
"I want to find that project to shoot down there in Tampa," Packer said. "I would love nothing more than to be able to hire a bunch of extras from my hometown and let my mom and all her church sisters walk by in a film. That would certainly make me proud and make her happy."