Joe Wright’s “brutal” vision for the psychological thriller “The Woman in the Window” was shattered thanks to a drawn-out production, dismaying test screenings, multiple reshoots and re-edits, and an overall “long, protracted, frustrating experience.”
Wright opened up to Vulture about the adaptation of A.J. Finn’s novel of the same name, which premiered on Netflix in May 2021. Amy Adams stars as Dr. Anna Fox, an alcoholic, pill-guzzling recluse who witnesses the supposed murder of her neighbor, Jane Russell (Julianne Moore), only for Jane’s husband (Gary Oldman) to introduce Anna to another Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
What should’ve been awards-season fodder with Oscar nominee Wright at the helm was deemed a dud by most, and arguably marked the end of that version of the Hollywood studio system with the film rights changing hands over the course of production. The film eventually landed on Netflix, which bought the distribution rights from Disney-owned 20th Century Studios. Wright previously told IndieWire that the bad reception for the film was due to “too many cooks” and that he as the director had no control whatsoever over the film’s ultimate vision.
As Wright told Vulture, “The film that was finally released was not the film that I originally made. It was like, ‘Oh, fucking hell. You live and you learn.’ It got watered down. It got watered down a lot.”
Wright continued, “It was a lot more brutal in my original conception. Both aesthetically, with really fucking hard cuts and really violent music — Trent Reznor did an incredible score for it that was abrasive and hard-core — and in its depiction of Anna, Amy Adams’s character, who was far messier and kind of despicable in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, audiences like women to be nice in their movies. They don’t want to see them get messy and ugly and dark and drunk and taking pills. It’s fine for men to be like that, but not for women. So the whole thing was watered down to be something that it wasn’t.”
The “really hard” cuts from Wright’s original “The Woman in the Window” and the switch of screenwriters (Tony Gilroy wrote the reshoots after original writer Tracy Letts left the project) led to a loss of the “brutalist” element that made the novel a bestseller.
The “Pride & Prejudice” director added, “I always think that people are going to get what I do and that of course it’s worth spending X amount of millions of dollars on a sort of formal experiment in fucking anxiety. And when people go, ‘Hmmm, that’s not really what we …,’ I get surprised…If you’re working with a Hollywood budget, it’s probably not such a clever idea.”
Wright does, however, remain open to the idea of a “Woman in the Window” director’s cut.
“I think it would cost a lot money to do, because you’d have to reedit the whole thing, regrade it, remix it. But it would be fun. I’d love to do it,” he said. “There’s a great scene where she had sex with the bloke downstairs and stuff like that. It was very different.”