Let’s rewind to the year 2000 — Matt Damon was coming off of an impressive string of films including “Good Wll Hunting,” “Rounders,” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Meanwhile, many were looking forward to seeing what Billy Bob Thornton would deliver next following his breakout directorial debut “Sling Blade.” So when both were working together on an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy‘s “All The Pretty Horses,” expectations were high. But the result was a classic story of studio interference clashing with artistic vision.
It goes something like this: when Thornton handed in his first cut of the movie to Miramax, it was apparently somewhere between 3 and 4 hours, and not surprisingly, he was asked to cut it down. And basically, what ended up in the multiplex, running under 2 hours, was not what Thornton envisioned at all. Harvey Weinstein got involved, and in addition to slashing the movie, ditched the original score by the legendary Daniel Lanois and replaced it with something by Marty Stuart. The movie flopped in theaters both commercially and critically. Many have wondered what happened with Thornton’s original version. Apparently, it’s still kicking around.
Chatting with Playboy recently, Damon was asked if there was ever an experience that made him want to “pack it all in,” and this was one that came to mind. “Everybody who worked on ‘All the Pretty Horses’ took so much time and cared so much. As you know, the Cormac McCarthy book is set in 1949 and is about a guy trying to hold on to his old way of life. The electric guitar became popular in 1949, and the composer Daniel Lanois got an old 1949 guitar and wrote this spare, haunting score,” Damon shared. “We did the movie listening to his score. It informed everything we did. We made this very dark, spare movie, but the studio wanted an epic with big emotions and violins. They saw the cast, the director, Billy Bob Thornton, and the fact that we spent $50 million, and they never released our movie—though the cut still exists. Billy had a heart problem at that time, and it was because his heart fucking broke from fighting for that film. It really fucked him up. It still bothers me to this day.”
So, is this the starting point for a petition for somebody to release the full cut? We suppose so, but there is still one stumbling block — Lanois actually owns the rights to his score, and has thus far refused to license it for any release of the movie. Though presumably if Thornton was allowed to re-instate his original vision, that would change. Needless to say, we’re curious. Matt, if you ever want to have us over to watch it, we’ll bring the popcorn.