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‘American History X’ Director Tony Kaye Says He’s Still In Director’s Jail

‘American History X’ Director Tony Kaye Says He’s Still In Director’s Jail

The term ‘director’s jail’ might be a metaphorical one, but to those sentenced to it, it’s a very real thing. One flop too many (or a single giant one), rumors of bad behavior, or just pissing off the wrong people, and a filmmaker can find their calls unreturned, their projects lying dormant and their career prospects looking (at least) temporarily bleak. 

The latest director to end up there is Josh Trank. Once one of the brightest young talents out there, with “Chronicle” in his past and a “Star Wars” movie in his future, Trank became a cropper this year with “Fantastic Four,” where rumors of clashes and ‘interesting’ behavior during the shoot and the lousy reviews and box office were exacerbated by the director disowning the movie on Twitter on the day of release. A piece in the Hollywood Reporter suggests that the filmmaker might have some issues moving forward, with an unnamed studio employee being quoted as saying “No executive will go near him. I might take a meeting with him, just to give him advice, but I wouldn’t give him a job.” 

Trank shouldn’t lose hope — plenty have come back from worse than this (David Fincher after “Alien 3,” for instance), but some end up serving longer sentences than others, with one of the longest-running inmates being Tony Kaye. The eccentric British director was a hot commercial and music video helmer who made his feature debut with 1998’s acclaimed “American History X,” but despite the film’s acclaim, Kaye found himself persona non grata after falling out with the studio and star Edward Norton, trying to take his name off the film, and making his displeasure very public. 

Kaye has worked since — the 2006 documentary “Lake Of Fire,” the 2011 drama “Detachment” — but not often, and not within the studio system. His outside position was probably not helped by “Black Water Transit,” what would have been his third film, never being completed after the production company went bankrupt midway through production. The director tells the same Hollywood Reporter that he’s still very much banged up. 

“I am — excuse my French — fucked,” Kaye says. “I am in jail. I am totally in jail.” The filmmaker now acknowledges that his temperament might have had something to do with his estrangement from Hollywood — “I have this crazy reputation, which I nurtured. I thought you had to be arrogant and awful.” But Kaye says he’s mellowed, and now hopes for a late comeback. “I have learned a lot over the years about process, and how to conduct myself with collaborators within the collective of making a movie, and how to be caring about the pain of others, and not to live in a realm of desire for the self alone. I’m hoping I can turn all of my mistakes into the best third act.” 

For all his troubles, both made by himself and otherwise, Kaye’s always been very talented, and we hope that he can turn things around. As to whether Trank ends up with a similar stint in the joint, it’s too early to tell, but we certainly hope he doesn’t. As bad as “Fantastic Four” is, it’d be a shame to see it derail his career permanently. 

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