Andrew Dominik’s 2007 historical epic “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was a flop for Warner Bros. at the box office, grossing just under $4 million domestically against a $30 million production budget. The movie’s $15 million worldwide total wasn’t great either. In the year’s since, “Jesse James” has emerged as a cult favorite thanks to its strong central performance from Brad Pitt and its cinematography by Roger Deakins. The DP’s work on the film is often credited as some of the best cinematography of the 21st century. In a new interview with Collider, Deakins reveals there is an over three-hour “Jesse James” cut he hopes will get a release.
“It should be [on Criterion],” Deakins said. “I would really like to see the long version, the first cut that I saw, released on Criterion. That’s what I’d hope for. It was over three hours. I don’t think it ever will, because last time I talked to Andrew about it he was quite happy with the version that got released. But I still remember that first early cut that I saw that was like three and a quarter I think, and it was pretty stunning. There was a four-hour version. The first cut was like four hours, I seem to remember.”
A roughly 195 minute “Jesse James” cut would run over a half hour longer than Warner Bros.’ theatrical cut, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival and earned two Oscar nominations: Best Supporting Actor for Casey Affleck and Best Cinematography for Deakins. Getting an extended “Jesse James” cut released on Criterion sounds ideal, but Dominik revealed in 2016 that Criterion had passed on releasing the original “Jesse James” theatrical cut.
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“I don’t think Criterion are interested in it,” Dominik said at the time. “I don’t think that they feel it’s significant enough for them. There was this really lovely guy, who was a film student, that organized this ‘Jesse James’ revival, either last year or the year before. He was a film student or something, and ‘Jesse James’ is his favorite movie. He basically took it upon himself to create a ‘Jesse James’ revival and he set up all these screens at various Cinematheque type of things. He tried to get Criterion interested, and they weren’t.”
Deakins’ latest release is “The Goldfinch,” which Warner Bros. is opening nationwide September 13. The cinematographer has a second 2019 release lined up for December with Universal’s “1919,” a World War I thriller directed by Sam Mendes.