5 items from 2017
Ryan Lambie Jul 24, 2017
Tales of Waterworld's making have long since passed into legend. You've probably read about the long and difficult shoot on the open seas around Hawaii, about the soaring costs, the sinking sets and the increasingly fractious relationship between the two Kevins - director Kevin Reynolds and star Kevin Costner. You've probably heard about a pre-Buffy Joss Whedon being flown in to revise the script, and how, getting wind of all this, the Hollywood press started calling Waterworld names like "Fishtar and "Kevin's Gate".
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What's less commonly discussed is just where Waterworld came from. It's often reported that the screenplay was written by Peter Rader and later reworked by David Twohy; what's less widely known is that Waterworld could »
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were dumped from the Han Solo spinoff film this week after more than four months of production, an unusually late date to make a shift behind the camera. That leaves the “Star Wars” production scrambling to find a replacement with weeks left of shooting and a scheduled five weeks of reshoots coming later this summer, an unenviable position for one of the biggest franchises in the entertainment industry and all involved.
The film, which is still untitled, isn’t the first to change its director in midstream. Classics such as “Gone With the Wind” and “Wizard of Oz” cycled through filmmakers, while duds like “The 13th Warrior” and “The Island of Dr. Moreau” also brought in fresh blood in the middle of shooting. But despite plenty of precedents, Lord and Miller’s firing is setting tongues wagging.
“It has certainly happened on a number of occasions, but not under such scrutiny and not usually this far into production,” said Leonard Maltin, a film critic and historian.
Frequently, a director is dropped after he finds himself on the losing end of a power struggle. During “Gone With the Wind,” Clark Gable pushed to have George Cukor replaced with Victor Fleming because Gable felt that the filmmaker was paying too much attention to his co-star, Vivien Leigh. While shooting “Spartacus,” Kirk Douglas used his clout to have Anthony Mann replaced with Stanley Kubrick because he believe that his hand-picked substitute could better handle the film’s epic scope. And in “Waterworld” it was Kevin Costner, and not credited director Kevin Reynolds, who handled the film’s final cut after the two clashed on the notoriously troubled and costly production.
More recently, Steven Soderbergh left “Moneyball” due to his desire to shoot documentary-style, while Pixar parted ways with the the directors of several of its films, from “Ratatouille” to the “Brave” to “The Good Dinosaur,” over differing creative ideas about the animated offerings. In most cases, these movies survived their filmmaking shuffles to succeed financially and artistically, proving that a rocky path to the big screen does not necessarily foretell doom.
That’s to say nothing of the pictures whose financial backers probably wished in retrospect that they’d pulled the plug on a director. Costly overruns on “Heaven’s Gate,” Michael Cimino’s brooding Western epic, essentially bankrupted United Artists, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “Cleopatra” went so egregiously over budget that it brought Fox to the brink of financial ruin. Perhaps another filmmaker would have been able to rein in some of the spending?
But there are reasons why studios have historically been loathe to make a change after cameras start rolling.
“Once a film begins production it’s a runaway train and the backers of the film are reluctant to remove the conductor from the train for fear of it being even more of a disaster,” said Howard Suber, a professor of film history at UCLA. “It becomes a decision between cutting your losses and possibly starting all over again or hoping that things somehow are able to get better.”
It’s harder to overhaul a project without drawing a lot of scrutiny. In the days of “The Wizard of Oz” or “Gone With the Wind,” the public wasn’t as versed in film production — studios might expect a report of a production shakeup in a trade paper such as Variety, but it rarely filtered out across the mass media. That’s no longer the case. From Entertainment Tonight to the New York Times to Twitter, news of Lord and Miller’s ouster was ubiquitous this week.
“The public is now reading about controversies on films and who gets hired here and who gets fired there,” said Dana Polan, professor of cinema studies at Nyu. “That was not a thing before.”
In the case of the Han Solo spinoff shakeup, insiders say that Lord and Miller clashed with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan over their vision for the film and its execution. Lord and Miller wanted to inject more cheekiness into the “Star Wars” universe and encouraged improvisation on set. Kasdan and Kennedy believed in adhering more tightly to the script and were concerned that the directors were deviating too far from the franchise’s “house style.” They preferred something that was more reverent, which they might get if Ron Howard or Joe Johnston, both rumored to be in the running for the gig, take over as director.
The Lord and Miller firing is also a reminder of a new cinematic reality. Auteur theory, a popular school of thought in film criticism, once held that the director is the true author of a film because he or she makes the key audio and visual decisions. That view was given so much credence that 1980’s “The Stunt Man” offered up Peter O’Toole as a God-like film director, an artistic zealot willing to trample over anyone and everyone in order to get the perfect shot.
Miller and Lord’s ouster, however, demonstrates the limitations of a director’s power in a rapidly changing movie landscape. It’s a caste structure in which brands, be they costumed heroes or robots, are the true stars in Hollywood. As Lord and Miller discovered, no filmmaker is more important than the Jedi mythology that lies at the heart of the “Star Wars” universe. With billions of dollars in box office and merchandising at stake, studios aren’t as receptive to a director who wants to take an iconoclastic approach to the material.
12 Directors Who Were Pushed from the Director’s Chair
As studios have grown more corporate and more dependent on a few major franchises, productions have become more bureaucratic. It’s Kennedy and her team at Lucasfilm who are making most of the major decisions about where to take the “Star Wars” universe, just as executive teams at DC (Geoff Johns and Jon Berg) and Marvel (Kevin Feige) are exerting enormous control over the gestations of the various sequels and spinoffs that they churn out annually. In the old days, the first move would be to hire a director. Now, a filmmaker is often brought onto a project after a script has been written and even storyboarded.
There’s a lot less job stability when you’re a mercenary.
Related storiesRon Howard to Take Over as Director of 'Star Wars' Han Solo SpinoffWhy Movies Need Directors Like Phil Lord and Chris Miller More Than Ever'Star Wars' Han Solo Spinoff: Lord & Miller Fired After Clashing With Kathleen Kennedy (Exclusive) »
- Brent Lang
We take a look at new Blu-rays of two ’80s classics.
Shout! Factory’s relatively young collectors label, Shout Select, is something of an odd duck. This is less of a criticism than an observation as their releases so far bear no real discernible through line. We’ve gotten well-deserved Blu-rays of eagerly awaited ’80s classics like To Live and Die in La, Road House, and Midnight Run, but the label has also released/announced titles like Death of a Salesman, The Chinese Connection, and Simon Pegg’s forgettable 2012 film, A Fantastic Fear of Everything. So yeah, there’s something of an odd inconsistency across the catalog.
Red Dawn (1984)
A small town in Colorado begins its day like any other until strangers drop from the sky. Soviet »
- Rob Hunter
Simon Brew Jan 4, 2017
More and more little details continue to drip out surrounding Andrew Garfield’s departure from the role of Spider-Man. In spite of the fact that Sony had announced release dates for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4, it went on to pull the plug on the series after the second movie failed to fully ignite the box office. Garfield was duly dropped as the incumbent webslinger, and with Marvel coming on board too, Tom Holland was duly cast in the role. Holland, of course, debuted his Spider-Man in last year’s Captain America: Civil War.
There had been rumours from 2015 that suggested Garfield had in fact »
Tony Sokol Jan 4, 2017
Michael Keaton, who burst onto the movie scene with manic characters like Beeteljuice and Johnny Dangerously, remains perhaps most famed for his stint as the Dark Knight. He played Batman/Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, and its 1992 sequel, Batman Returns. The DC Comics movies were blockbuster hits, and the reimagined series was well on its way to being a winning franchise. But Keaton turned down the chance to be in the third movie of the series, Batman Forever. And he's been chatting about why. It wasn't anything to do with the suit, rather that "it sucked," Keaton told The Hollywood Reporter.
“The script never was good. »
5 items from 2017
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