Joshua Rich
March 31, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

How did basketball fanatic Spike Lee score the biggest slam dunk of his career with Inside Man? Just check out the all-stars he had on his team: Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster. The dynamic duo are two of the last big-ticket names that can attract the kind of vast and, more important, complementary crowds that lead to $29 million openings. ”We’re in a world where stars appear to not have the same power that they once had,” says producer Brian Grazer. ”And then something like this proves that they [can still do it]. It’s a validation of their bankability.”

The numbers say it all. After just one week, the $45 million-budgeted bank-heist thriller already stands to pass Lee’s 1992 biopic Malcolm X (which earned $48.2 million) as his biggest box office hit. And not only is Inside Man the top opener ever for both Lee and Washington, its first-weekend take is greater than the openings of the pair’s last three collaborations combined. All of which has left Universal surprised — its internal tracking predicted an $18 million debut — and thrilled. ”When we started the movie…this cast felt really good,” says Grazer. Little did he know how right he was.

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