Screenwriter/director Oren Moverman is having a banner year. His sophomore directorial effort, the blistering L.A.P.D. cop-drama “Rampart,” is a stunner, one of the year’s best and it features a scorching performance by Woody Harrelson. Other than Micheal Fassbender in “Shame,” it’s an unparalleled and astonishing turn into darkness (if both those two don’t get nominated, burn the Academy down).
While it’s probably too early to tell whether the film will reap end of the year rewards or Oscar noms – it’s a smaller independent picture and somewhat experimental and moody – creatively, Moverman has already scored a bull’s-eye (see our review from TIFF). As we reported first in October, “Rampart” will receive a one-week Oscar qualifying run on November 23rd in New York and L.A. only and will reopen in a platform release on January 27.
The Playlist spoke with Moverman this week about “Rampart” (which you’ll hear more about in depth next week), but also took a quick detour to discuss “The Messenger” director’s gestating Kurt Cobain biopic that he has been attached to for a while now. And it turns out he’s off the project, despite delivering a script he and Courtney Love loved.
Producers Working Title and Universal however, apparently did not love his unorthodox approach to the material which he described as “fragmented,” and “experimental” and did not even feature Cobain’s suicide. “They told me, ‘We cannot support [your] wildly independent and unconventional approach to this movie,’ ”Moverman said.
Titled, “This Is Gonna Suck,” Moverman said the proposed film and screenplay was all about “attitude,” and the reconciliation of Cobain’s vacillating moods. “This is a guy who thought he sucked, but occasionally thought he was brilliant too. The film would have been fragmented, but also examined what made him tick,” he explained. “It just tracked his life in pieces and there wasn’t a lot of psychology to it or reasons or excuses for his behavior.” Moverman said the film would have traced the last seven years of his life and would have been framed around three female relationships in his life, Tracy Marander, Toby Vail and Courtney Love.
While there had been plenty of casting rumors over the years, Moverman said, no one had been slotted in the lead and at best conversations were best-case, “Wouldn’t it be nice?” scenarios. However one rumored actor for the part, Moverman’s producing partner and actor Ben Foster was someone he had favored and hoped to have placed in contention, had the project received a green light. “Ben was definitely on my mind for the part. He’s the actor of his generation,” he said, “And he’s barely scraped the tip of his abilities. People haven’t yet fully noticed him, but he’s an extraordinary talent.”
The filmmaker said the studio has to start from scratch now and while disappointed he couldn’t get the film made, he understands the nature of the beast and wishes them well. Asked what Courtney Love, an executive producer on the project who has approval of any film that gets made, Moverman said, “Courtney was very upset when I told her I wasn’t going to do it. I felt bad, I wanted to make this film, but it just couldn’t happen.” The director also stressed that it’s unfortunate audiences wouldn’t be able to see a fully rounded portrait of one of the most famous (and infamous) widows in rock n’ roll history. “She’s an remarkable person, it’s sad that people can’t see how complex she is.”
“It’s funny,” he continued. “I said to [the producers] Working Title, ‘What do I say about this project? People are going to ask me about it soon?’ And they told me, ‘Tell them Working Title does not support this version of the film and will not be moving forward with it.’ So there you go, they’re on the hook.”
“Rampart” opens up in New York and L.A. for one week starting November 23. If you live in either city, make it a priority to see. Much, much more from this interview next week.