It feels like a while since we had a really good behind-the-scenes controversy — well, at least since the release of “Fantastic Four,” anyway — but one’s arrived in the shape of “London Fields.” The adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel screened at TIFF this morning to press to almost universally negative notices (ours, believe it or not, is on the more positive end of the spectrum, relatively speaking) ahead of an official premiere tonight, and the New York Times have suggested that the film screening isn’t what the director intended, and that its stars are deeply unhappy about that.
The film nominally marks the feature debut of music-video helmer and Guillermo Del Toro collaborator Matthew Cullen, but the Times suggests that the cut of the film on show was not overseen by him, but instead by producer Chris Hanley (“Spring Breakers,” “American Psycho”), who turned it into “a sometimes unrecognizable, avant-garde experiment that violates the spirit of the project.”
Cullen claims that he’s never been paid for the project, and had taken a break in order to find other work to pay the bills, while Hanley says that the director didn’t deliver a cut of the film on time, and that Cullen has “been fully compensated according to the terms of his agreement.” At one point, the two rivals were reportedly preparing two separate versions simultaneously, and the filmmaker may even have attempted to take his name off the film after his producer intercut stock footage of 9/11 and nuclear blasts into the movie, but proved unable to do so due to DGA rules.
Four of the big names in the film, Billy Bob Thornton, Jim Sturgess, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, who cameos in the film as a favor to Heard, who he’s married to, all wrote letters protesting the treatment of Cullen, and asking for the restoration of his cut.
It’s all a very odd story, and while not unprecedented, certainly unfortunate. If Cullen is the wronged party — and we’d certainly side with the artist, sight unseen — we hope this doesn’t cause problems for him with other work. That said, per our review, there may not have been all that much to salvage from the film however you cut it… “London Fields” will, possibly, hit theaters down the line.