There are a few ways to start this article. We could talk about the film’s indie cred, with its Kickstarter-fueled funding and low-budget, digital-filmmaking approach. We could talk about it being a cautionary tale about working with Lindsay Lohan (more on that in a moment). But instead, we’ll start with this quote from the film’s screenwriter, Bret Easton Ellis, about the Paul Schrader-directed “The Canyons”: “The film is so languorous. It’s an hour 30, and it seems like it’s three hours long. I saw this as a pranky noirish thriller, but Schrader turned it into, well, a Schrader film.”
The New York Times Magazine has published a pretty insightful and devastating look at the making of the film. In hindsight, the release of three wildly different teaser trailers — sold as “parody” versions — perhaps suggests that no one agrees on what kind of movie they’re making. On paper, the film follows a group of young people in their 20s, and how one chance meeting connected to the past unravels all of their lives, resulting in deceit, paranoia, and ultimately violence. Outside of Lohan and porn star James Deen, the cast consists largely of unknowns, and also salaciously features a four-way sex scene. With a veteran filmmaker eager to return to the spotlight, working with a script (and cast) sure to get attention, you would think it might be smooth sailing. But never count out Lohan.
All last year rumors flew about the trouble she was causing on the picture, and indeed, from the start through to the finish, Lohan was seemingly a nightmare to work with. She didn’t get along at all with Deen, and vaccilated between being a willing collaborator and someone who would disappear or show up late. Let’s break down the “highlights,” such as they are:
–At the first read through, Lohan had already crossed out the name of her co-star, little known Canadian actor Nolan Funk, and scribbled in suggestions of actors to replace him. She put a stroke though Deen’s name as well.
–Lohan failed to show up for a pre-production meeting to discuss the pivotal sex scene, and when she didn’t appear for the second day, Schrader fired her, with an unnamed actress ready to go to replace her. Lohan begged and cried for her job back, even trying to get into Schrader’s hotel room to convince him to let her return. Schrader decided to give her one more chance after re-watching her screen test, realizing she was better than the replacment he had lined up. (Whether this was a ploy all along to show Lohan he was serious is unclear).
–“If she wants to treat this like ‘The Real Housewives’ of Beverly Hills, I’ll shoot it like ‘The Real Housewives.’ ” Schrader said during a standard moment of Lohan unpredictability in the midst of the shoot, instructing his crew to go handheld so that they could follow the actress instead of waiting for her to hit the marks.
-An inability to get Lohan to stay on schedule and her general unpredictability followed through in post, with the Times reporting: “It took two months and the quasi intervention of Lohan’s father to get Lohan to finish two hours of looping for the outdoor scenes.”
And the trouble didn’t end there. After everything was finished, Schrader, Ellis and producer Braxton Pope fought over the final cut, in disagreement in particular over the opening, which Pope wanted to reshoot (Schrader refused). Pope then showed a rough cut to Steven Soderbergh, who offered to spend 72 hours with the footage and deliver an edit. “The idea of 72 hours is a joke,” Schrader told the Times. “It would take him 72 hours to look at all the footage. And you know what Soderbergh would do if another director offered to cut his film? [Puts up two middle fingers]”
So what’s the status of the film now? Well, it was submitted for the Sundance Film Festival, but wasn’t accepted (kind of shocking given the pedigree Schrader’s name still carries, and just the general interest in the project) but nontheless, William Morris Endeavor will be putting the movie up for sale. Lohan is upset with the cut Schrader has assembled, feeling it focuses too much on her co-star Deen. And that’s a shame because for everything Lohan put him through, Schrader was initially planning to work with her again, casting her as the lead in a remake of John Cassavetes “Gloria.” Huh.