Grace of Monaco to be dropped by Weinstein?
Grace of Monaco, a film that looks at a small period of history in Grace Kelly's life where, as the Princess of Monaco, she was involved in the political debate between her husband, Prince Rainer III of Monaco and the French President Charles De Gaulle, is in serious trouble in America and looks like it might be dropped from release because of ego and spreadsheets.
A battle has erupted between the Director of the film, Oliver Dahan, and the American distributor, Harvey Weinstein, as the distributor takes the film to the edit suite to change it for the local release, one that threatens the film with losing that release. This all despite the director of La Vie en Rose and a cast list including Nicole Kidman, Frank Langella, Tim Roth, Derek Jacobi, and more stars from across Europe and Hollywood, never mind a very intriguing main character and time period to look at, as well as being talked about in terms of the American Academy Awards.
The original story was that the director of Grace of Monaco, Oliver Dahan, came out in the French press and revealed that the American distributor of the film was planning to edit his film into a different cut for the American release, ignoring his edit and his wishes for the film he, and the talent behind it, had created. He described it with rather harsh language, describing the film as a…
”…pile of s***”
Back in October 2013 when The Hollywood Reporter translated the original story from French newspaper Liberation, and it came to my attention through The Guardian. Then the director was concerned about Harvey Weinstein's plans to edit the film prior to delivering it for an American release. According to the story he had delayed the film from the release because he didn't believe it was ready to be released.
Just to confirm something at this point, the person who thought it wasn't ready to be viewed was the American distributor, not the director, writer, editor, etc. of the film.
Dahan was defending his right to deliver the film as he completed it to audiences and not for the distributor to create their own edit without his agreement. He said that the film was ready to be released and that it is completely finished, there was no need for a re-edit before the release. He described the process of finalising the release as complicated…
”…although actually, for me, it is finished…What's complicated at the moment is ensuring that you, the critics, can review my version of the film and not that of somebody else. It's not over yet. I haven't given up.”
His interview went on and he is clearly passionate about seeing his film released the way he wants it to be seen.
”It's right to struggle, but when you confront an American distributor like Weinstein, not to name names, there is not much you can do…Either you say 'Go figure it out with your pile of s***' or you brace yourself so the blackmail isn't as violent…If I don't sign, that's where the out-and-out blackmail starts, but I could go that far.
There are two versions of the film for now: mine and his…which I find catastrophic.”
That is indeed a catastrophe. Of course there are benefits to having someone re-edit a film for release, then there's the whole re-release on digital media of the Director's Version, and perhaps another release of the film with both versions for comparison. It does open up some great potential for the post-cinema release. However it's refreshing to notice that the director isn't thinking of that at all, he's not so concerned about the hard cash, rather getting the film seen in the way he wanted it to be seen.
After all do you want to see the distributor's version of a film or the director's?
You know what the distributor's version will be there to do and what is in the mind of the distributor when he's creating it - money. Opening weekend takings.
All the distributor is concerned about is how they can get the largest demographic into as many screens of as many cinemas as possible for the first four or so days of release. That's it. Perhaps, in the American market, they are also thinking of how it can tick the boxes for the Academy panel, but none of this is thinking about the creative content.
I'm with Dahan on this one.
”It's got hardly anything to do with the film. It's only about the money, the release strategy, millions of dollars and stuff like that. It's got nothing to do with cinema. I mean, of course it's about cinema, but the business side. They want a commercial film smelling of daisies, taking out anything that exceeds that which is too abrupt, everything that makes it cinematic and breathe with life. A lot of things are missing.”
The film was originally due for release in America in November 2013 and, at time of this interview, was delayed until March 2014. Still that's not a serious delay considering the worldwide release list doesn't seem to be scheduled to began until May 14th in France and currently scheduled to end in UK, Ireland and Taiwan on 6th June.
Now, according to Variety through The Guardian the battle continues and has reached the point that Weinstein might drop the film altogether, frankly something that might turn out to be something of a happy ending for the film. After all pulling an American release might be a terrible thing for a film's chances but not if it's a totally different film from the rest of the world and the director's intentions.
While that might return some good opening figures it's not liable to keep the money coming in nor is it going to do much for the digital releases. You're going to get people going to see the opening, since it will be engineered to capture the biggest demographic, and chances are the re-edited version won't be any good and we'll see a bunch of poor reviews, people not returning, and no desire to see the digital release.
Plus it would harm the reputation of the writer, director, editor, etc. although, to be fair, most people in the know would realise what had happened to the film and it wouldn't reflect on the original creatives. Actually it might bolster sales of the digital version if there is a Director's version released.
Still, an American release with a re-edit done by the distributor looking to hit those spreadsheet figures isn't going to do the film any good. A release of the original version is surely the better option?
However the latest story brings some balance to the battle, and while it's easy to pick sides here and go against the money man who seems to be forcing the creative to change his work (and I've done that in the article so far), there is always another side. The article tells us what Weinstein wants to bring to the film in his re-edit:
…additional scenes fleshing out details of Kelly's Hollywood years and providing further context for the row between Monaco and French president Charles de Gaulle upon which the film is centred…[the producer] reportedly believes the film is not yet ready to be viewed.
Now that doesn't sound too bad but at the same time I wonder why he didn't consider this when he was wanting to buy the film for release? If he didn't want the film he was buying and didn't think it was ready for release, why buy it? More than that why delay the release which has had the added impact of making the film miss the American Academy Awards deadline, and apparently it was looking to be a contender.
Furthermore you have to wonder where the stars of the film stand, after all they aren't small names are they? You might think that Nicole Kidman, Frank Langella and Tim Roth would have something to say about the film they signed up to act in being radically changed against the wishes of the director. Wouldn't their creative ethics come into play somewhere along the way?
Whatever Weinstein does with the film in America we're certain of one thing, it's going to get the original release of the film elsewhere, the director's version. Perhaps he will drop the film for release and another company who want to release what they buy, will pick the film up.