“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is widely regarded as both one of the best western films of the 21st century and one of the most prominent recent examples of a studio interfering with a great movie.
Andrew Dominik’s moody, contemplative western has more in common with Terrence Malick than John Ford or Howard Hawks, but there are plenty of stories of Warner Bros. trying to make the film more mainstream. However, despite a brutal editing process, Dominik was still able to release a film that illustrated his vision and earned two Oscar nominations.
But recently, the film’s production team has been speaking out about a rumored cut of the film that is even longer than the 160-minute version that hit theaters. Speaking to Collider, cinematographer Roger Deakins recently caught cinephiles’ attention when he recalled watching this longer version of the film, even if his memory of it is a bit hazy.
“I would really like to see the long version, the first cut that I saw, released on Criterion,” Deakins said. “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.”
Deakins’ comments prompted director Andrew Dominik to weigh in. Dominik confirmed the existence of a longer cut, which he says he prefers to the original, but he lamented the fact that neither Warner Bros. nor Criterion seemed interested in releasing it.
“Listen, we tried to get Warner Bros. to allow us to release a longer version of it,” Dominik said. “They’re not interested in doing it, and I think somebody tried to petition Criterion to do it. Criterion were not interested in ‘Jesse James.’ There is a better version of ‘Jesse James’ — in my opinion — that’s about 15 minutes longer. And that’s the one that Roger was talking about.”
While it’s disappointing that the director’s preferred cut is being kept under wraps, fans of Dominik have plenty to look forward to this year. Netflix is releasing his long-awaited Marilyn Monroe biopic “Blonde,” which stars Ana de Armas as the iconic movie star. And if that’s not enough, he also directed “This Much I Know To Be True,” the Nick Cave documentary that earned strong reviews at SXSW.