This year, movies like Battle: Los Angeles, I Am Number Four, Hoodwinked 2 (did anyone even see the first one?), another Tyler Perry movie, Red Riding Hood, and the Justin Bieber documentary all easily made their way into theaters. Know what hasn’t come out this year (or the past couple) while films like Something Borrowed get their big studio pushes?
Kenneth Lonergan‘s follow-up to his brilliant debut, You Can Count on Me, has had a notoriously rough time making it to theaters, both due to legal issues and a dispute over final cut.
The film was shot almost six years ago. The editing process has been called a nightmare. Lonergan has a three-hour cut that Fox Searchlight isn’t too keen on releasing. Why? Because they won’t release a version over two hours long. Lonergan has final cut, which hasn’t made the situation any easier. Great talents such as Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese, Scott Rudin, and Sydney Pollack did passes on the film to get it down to a shorter length.
And right now, Scorsese is doing another edit of the film with Lonergan.
I was lucky enough to speak with the movie’s co-star Mark Ruffalo yesterday for his directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious, and of course, I had to ask about Margaret. Ruffalo described the three-hour cut he saw as a “masterpiece” and explained that “it’s a love letter to a post-9/11 America and New York City.”
You’d think a film of that possible caliber and with a cast including Matt Damon, Anna Paquin, Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Kieran Culkin, Olivia Thirlby, and Ruffalo would be a sure thing for awards season, but sadly, that’s been proven incorrect over the past few years. The reality that a bold talent like Lonergan has to fight this hard to get this film released is a truly sad commentary on commerce kicking art’s ass.
Here’s part of my exchange with Ruffalo on the status of Lonergan’s long-awaited film:
When will we actually be able to see Margaret?
Ruffalo: [Sighs] Oh, it’s so… I don’t know. Marty Scorsese has come on now to do a pass on it with Kenneth. It was a movie that started at 186 pages. It was just a very, very finely interwoven piece of material and it’s so beautiful. When he tried to cut it down, he had a very hard time. The studio was saying they wanted no more than two hours, and the rough cut I saw was a little bit over three hours long. It was absolutely incredible. It was beautiful, moving, and such a fine piece of work on so many levels. It was beautifully shot, beautifully acted, and the writing is incredible. It’s a love story to a post-9/11 America and New York City.
He couldn’t get it cut down. He had a really hard time. The studio, basically, said they weren’t going to release it. That’s where it’s been. It got tied up in lawsuits with Gary Gilbert, who tried to take the movie away and have someone else edit it behind Kenny’s back. It was a surreal, big, ugly thing. Now Kenny has got it and Marty is kinda arbitrating his cut. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing it soon.