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What Really Happened to ‘Serena,’ Starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

What Really Happened to 'Serena,' Starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

Back in 2012, after Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence co-starred in David O. Russell’s Oscar-winning “Silver Linings Playbook” and before its follow-up “American Hustle,” the duo shot period drama “Serena,” which was once going to star Angelina Jolie with director Darren Aronofsky. Lawrence recommended Cooper and talked him into joining her on the project. 

Oscar-winning Danish auteur Susanne Bier (“A Better World”) took the helm for producers Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s 2929 Productions, and has been delayed trying to finish it. Based on Ron Rash’s 2008 novel, the film is set in 1929 North Carolina and follows George and Serena Pemberton, ambitious newlyweds with their hearts set on a timber empire. They become obsessed with success, and their lives take a Shakespearean turn when Serena finds that she can’t get pregnant and tries to harm her husband’s illegitimate son.

Why the delays? “Once it finished shooting we’ve all been busy,” Bier told me at the Toronto Film Festival, which invited “Serena,” but the stars weren’t available. “I’ve been doing another film [TIFF world premiere “Second Chance”]. Cooper and Lawrence were super-busy, just doing the [post-production sound recording] has been tricky. She had only one day off in two years!”

“There were some different cuts that took a lot of time,” Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles told me. Seller CAA screened the movie for studio buyers and several made offers but none were substantial enough to make it worthwhile for 2929 not to release the film itself. “There was some play with the studios, but it didn’t get to the place where it needed to get,” Bowles said. Thus 2929 sister company Magnolia Pictures released the film first on premium VOD and then in theaters March 27.  

Bowles says he saw “a couple of different versions of the movie” (which one unidentified buyer told THR “made no sense“). What was the difference? “Frankly I don’t know what cut they saw,” says Bowles. “It was a question of emphasis. It’s not a radically different cut. Susanne tweaked it and it got better. The one they have now is the best one. It’s a beautiful-looking period piece, a fantastic-looking production. It’s completely relatable and understandable and a really good film. It’s a serious drama, a big-scale romance, and a bit of a tragic Lady MacBeth story.”
Canal Plus, which is handling Europe, booked the film for an October 13 world premiere at the London Film Festival in advance of its European release. That’s where negative reviews first landed –it’s at 34% on Metacritic. Magnolia waited until 2015 to open stateside because of the availability of the stars. Cooper was starring on Broadway in “The Elephant Man” until the middle of February, and had to promote Clint Eastwood’s Christmas release “American Sniper” as well, while Lawrence was stuck with “Hunger Games” chores. 

So Magnolia opened the movie stateside February 26 on VOD (scoring a reported $1 million so far)–counting on Lawrence and Cooper to drive viewer desire to see the movie at a high purchase point– followed by an “aggressive” theatrical release in 20-25 major markets on March 27.  (Here’s how it did at the box office.) “If people go in thinking it’s a bad film they will be pleasantly surprised,” said Bowles. “It’s a good film. I stand by it. Susanne Bier did a good job directorially on this film.”

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There’s a great film, ‘David and Goliath’ that’s coming out on VOD – it played theatrically the same time I believe….


Suzanne Bier sucks as a director, thats why this went no where.


This was an odd article… Basically just a defensive advertisement? Did Anne Thompson really write this? It feels like this article was paid for.


We saw this late autumn here in Bangkok – a limited release – there are only so many ways to cut this story – at worst it is a very robust and tragic drama – brave filmakers to be creating this kind of work in this age of soda pop entertainment- Lawrence and Cooper burn up the screen with their powerful chemistry. Not to be missed.


Well, I’d pump the breaks to those of you whom are excited to see this movie. Reviews have been pretty dismal at best. There’s always more to particulars to movies getting set aside, I highly doubt the major reason is due to Schedule Conflicts, the film did terrible at Test-Screenings. Just read the many Reviews from those that attended. Obviously, Producers are in "Profit" mode & can’t spin this picture soley on the bank of its two leading stars…although, I’m sure a plethora of those that do watch it are big Cooper/Lawrence fans. Either way, leave your Expectations at the Door for this one folks.


is this re-release of the article? I’ve read this before awhile back.


Sorry, theatrical not theatratical


So, what version has been released here, in Spain, on DVD two weeks ago? By the way, when it got a theatratical release the movie received really bad reviews in my country.

James Hutton

I saw it on a plane flight last month. Bad direction. Good acting though.


Yeah, dumping this on VOD and then having an "aggressive" release in theaters a month later doesn’t make any sense. Anyone who wants to see the film will have already seen it on VOD. They’re not going to pay to see it in a theater a month later. This makes zero sense.


You have a superstar on the level of Jennifer Lawrence, a woman who’s driven every movie she’s been in the last few years to blockbuster status and you’re going to VOD first? VOD is death…people won’t go to the theater if they can get it in on VOD. In fact, I’ll bet no one can name one hit movie that was first released on VOD. The whole point of having a movie star in an indie film is to hopefully get some of that stars audience in to the theater to see your small movie. And since there’s no one hotter than Lawrence, why not take advantage of her presence?


Based on an interview Jennifer and Bradley did with MTV at the Toronto Film Festival when "Silver Linings Playbook" was screened, I believe they filmed "Serena" after "Silver Linings Playbook."


Well, you create a lot more than 3 cuts of a film during the post production process. It’s not at all unusual. Generally not a lot of people see the different cuts, but it’s not unheard of, even for a really good film. Blier is not a first-time director, either…she’s quite experienced. It makes sense that it took this long to corral Cooper and Lawrence for looping, etc. But folks love to predict disaster. It’s what fuels the media. And as Oscar Wilde says, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."




I would like the Academy recognizes the brilliant and amazing work of Marion Cotillard in Two Days One Night. The media should talk more about that wonderful film.


I’m definitely watching the film. Susanne Bier never disappoints and so do Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.


I’m definitely seeing this movie also. I have an intuition but we will see.


"good" isn’t "great." There’s gotta be more reasons why. Why would you create three different cuts?


And that’s "damn" not "Damon". I don’t know anyone named Damon. Silly auto correct.


I am definitely seeing this film. Two very talented actors, director, etc., lots of speculation…I am seeing this film and making up my own Damon mind.

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