Shooting tragedies in this country are becoming a chillingly common occurrence of late. Responses are tricky: how to balance the desire to be respectful, with not going overboard and becoming overprotective? The question of censorship hit in July, after the shooting tragedy at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The 1940s period picture “Gangster Squad” starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling landed at the center of the fallout for a sequence in the film’s trailers that showed Mickey Cohen (Penn) and his men in the middle of a firefight in a movie theater. The connotations of purposely gunning down moviegoers, like the disturbed real-life shooter, no doubt left many feeling that “Gangster Squad” was suddenly in poor taste. Warner Bros. rightly decided to begin pulling the trailer from theaters, and then considered what their next move should be.
Meanwhile, over at Deadline, Nikki Finke used the shooting to continue to screech about Warner Bros. efforts even though they had already made decisions internally about how they would handle the incident, with sensitivy to the victims and national mood. The studio decided to not only pull the trailer theatrically, but online as well, and announced they were cutting the aforementoined sequence from the film, would film a new scene, and were moving the release date of the film from a planned September 2012 bow to January 2013 instead. Cries of kowtowing to media censorship were heard from many corners of the film blogosphere, but one person you won’t hear crying foul is director Ruben Fleischer. Though he remained largely silent during this period, during the recent “Gangster Squad” press day in L.A. the filmmaker revealed he was all for the cuts.
“The Aurora shooting was an unspeakable tragedy, and out of respect for the families of the victims, we felt it necessary to reshoot that sequence, and I’m proud of the fact that we did,” he said, “I think that we didn’t compromise the film or our intent, and I think the [newly shot] Chinatown sequence is really well done, and that we should all respect the tragedy and not draw associations to our film.”
Fair enough. And Fleischer was so adamant that he said if it shows up on DVD later, don’t look at him. “You don’t want it out there if it is going to be hurtful to people,” the director added.
Josh Brolin, also present at the press conference jumped in. “I truly believe this, as opposed to bullshitting you that I have to say this, I think it’s a better sequence than what was there in the beginning,” the actor said. “Out of respect for the families, I understand why Warner Bros. made the decision. The fact that that happened and that exists in the movie, it’s just too similar. So I agreed with the choice. Not everybody agreed, but I totally agreed with the choice.”
Thoughts? Let us know your feelings below, particularly as the events in Newtown, Conneticut bring up this conversation again. “Gangster Squad” opens January 11, 2013. – Reporting by Charlie Schmidlin