2011 seems to be year of new films from director’s who’ve been making us wait, with new efforts from Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay and Alexander Payne all on the way, but the story of Kenneth Lonergan — whose “Margaret” is still unreleased — is perhaps the most heartbreaking of them all. His followup to the critically acclaimed “You Can Count On Me,” has been sitting in limbo for the past few years—it wrapped way back in 2005—for a variety of reasons. Foremost, a legal battle erupted, with suits and countersuits filed, as Lonergan simply could not find the picture in the editing bay. Lonergan apparently requested further time in the editing room, while multiple editors apparently also took control of the film at various points both with and without Lonergan’s ok. Even late producer Sydney Pollack became infuriated with Lonergan’s “unprofessional and irrational behavior,” and we pretty much had figured the movie would end up as an historical curiosity rather than an actual finished film. At one point, it was rumored that 300 pages of script were shot, so no wonder he had trouble wrangling this thing into a manageable size. The sticking point seems to be length of the film: Lonergan’s cut runs about three hours, but this contract with Fox Searchlight states he needs to bring it in at two hours.
However, we recently got a bit of update as during press rounds for “Sympathy For Delicious” Mark Ruffalo revealed that Martin Scorsese had been brought in to “arbitrate” the cut with Lonergan. We wondered at the time, given Scorsese’s always busy schedule, just where it would be prioritized but if producer Gary Gilbert has his way, we’ll see the film by the end of the year.
In an interview with Anne Thompson, he confirms that Scorsese, along with his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, are working on the film, adding that it’s still facing legal woes, but plans are in motion to release it by the end of the year.
“[It’s] still in litigation,” says Gilbert. “It’s a great movie with great performances.” But even with all the headache of the now protracted six-year effort to bring the movie to the big screen, Gilbert has no regrets. “If I knew the same facts, I’d do it again,” he said. “We had all the right ingredients. There’s no way to predict how things go wrong.”
Starring Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno and Olivia Thirlby the post 9/11 film follows the ramifications of a tragic bus accident as seen through the eyes of a high school student desperate to parse the tragedy for a deeper spiritual meaning. Ruffalo called the three hour cut a “masterpiece” describing it as “a very, very finely interwoven piece of material and it’s so beautiful….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.”
All this leads to us again asking: why can’t they just release the three hour cut? We understand that it pretty much means box office poison, but it was never going to be a box office hit anyway and it’s become quite clear that the picture isn’t an easy one to take a third out of. Is Lonergan being unreasonable or is it really a film that needs some trimming? We’d wager it’s somewhere in between but we’d prefer to see the film as he intended, not in some contractually obligated cut.
Anyway, we’ll take this news with a bit of salt. As you might remember, last year Fox Searchlight told Anne Thompson, “we do have a finished cut by Lonergan and we plan to release the film sometime in 2011.” Obviously, that’s not quite the case. But here’s hoping all the legal nonsense gets cleared up and this movie arrives in some fashion because it has been far too long at this point.