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Dustin Lance Black Talks About Recutting 'Virginia' and What He Really Thought of His First Version

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire May 16, 2012 at 1:03PM

Nobody knew quite what to expect from "What's Wrong With Virginia," Dustin Lance Black's directing debut, when it premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. But few expected the critical backlash that followed.

You did an interview with Movieline in Toronto shortly following the premiere…

They were one of our fans!

Yeah. At the time you said you were really proud of the film, and seemed pretty happy with it overall...

Listen, there was the criticism that I agreed with had to with tone. It was supposed to be told from the mind of this schizophrenic woman and I knew that was risky. I hadn't really gotten it right and I could see that clearly just sitting in the audience. The first hour was this bumbling half farce, half drama. It just hadn't struck the balance quite right. There were other things said that were just cutting me down to size. Some got very personal. They hurt, I'm not going to lie.

At the same time, it was my turn to get hit a little bit. I had a lot of success for many years, and the critics had been so kind. Sometimes it's good to get cut down to size a little bit. I do think it was helpful, maybe that's what you're getting at.

I feel like I'm in therapy right now.

"Certainly if I could go back and shoot things, I would."
We're getting deep.

It's kind of amazing [laughs]. Within a few months, or weeks even, it started to seep in. When you get humbled in that way it takes your perspective back down to earth. It's a good place to be making a movie. That's where I did my best work, was with my feet on the ground. Certainly with "Milk" -- me and a credit card driving to San Francisco.

It's like the whole mourning process -- you had to go through the pain, anger and loss of it all, and get around to what good came out of it.

And a good film came out of it.

Aw, thanks. It's changed a lot.

I didn't see the initial cut.

It sucked [laughs]. There were things I liked about it, but it had the wrong setup. When you arrive at these scenes, you'd go, "God this is just wacky, but for no reason." Beatrice gave it perspective and tone, and made it more cohesive.

There's always stuff that could be redone. Certainly if I could go back and shoot things, I would.

That must be the toughest part.

It is. For me, I've changed so much over the past three years.

This article is related to: Interviews, Dustin Lance Black, Virginia, What's Wrong With Virginia

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