James Gray’s beleaguered “The Immigrant” almost moved from the Cannes Film Festival to the Lifetime channel.
Writer/director Gray revealed to Vulture that producer Harvey Weinstein threatened to release the historical epic starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner as a TV movie. “The Immigrant” was nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2013. Upon a theatrical release almost exactly a year later in 2014, “The Immigrant” flopped at the box office, failed to garner awards attention, and speculation has since abounded over what is clearly a sore subject for Gray and the cast.
“I remember Harvey basically saying, ‘I’m not going to release it’ or ‘I’m going to put it on Lifetime’ or something like that. And I remember saying, ‘OK, you can do that. I’m not doing what you want me to do to it,'” Gray said of standing his ground when it came to the final cut of the film. “This was an act of complete insanity on my part. But my thought was since it’s going to come out elsewhere, in time, if the movie has any value, somebody will discover it years from now; if it doesn’t have any value, I didn’t deserve for it to be known.”
Similarly, Weinstein actually released the critically despised “Grace of Monaco,” starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, on Lifetime in 2015 exactly a year after its 2014 Cannes debut.
Gray continued, “To this day, I feel extremely lucky because there were a number of other movies that he simply shelved that really have not seen the light of day. I’ve had directors call me in tears, ‘How did you get your film released? Because my own movie is still on the shelf.'”
The “Armageddon Time” helmer added, “I mean, I’ve been public about what Harvey wanted to do. It was horrible! It was movie-wrecking. He wanted me to play soaring music and have Marion Cotillard and her sister walking over a mountain, then cut to Marion in old-age makeup, and, you know, ‘When I was younger, this is what my life was, but now my sister and I are living great.’ Kind of a combination of ‘Titanic’ and ‘Sound of Music.’ And I felt that the last shot of the film was very important, and I wasn’t going to compromise on that. He hated the last shot.”
Gray then detailed an encounter with Weinstein that he will “never forget.”
“He was in the editing room. He called me up, and he said, ‘My daughter was born this morning.’ So I said, ‘Oh, congratulations!'” Gray said, to which Weinstein replied, “‘Don’t you congratulate me! I’m in the editing room working on your movie!'”
“I said, ‘Well, I didn’t ask you to do that.’ He goes, ‘Fuck you! I’m doing this for you,'” Gray recalled, adding, “‘No, you’re not; you’re doing this for you. You’re trying to make a film. You’re trying to be a frustrated director right now.'”
Weinstein responded, “‘Fuck you! I’m Harvey Weinstein!’ I remember him saying this. ‘I’m God’s editor!’ That’s what he said! So he then showed me what he did.”
Gray called Weinstein’s 88-minute cut “completely incoherent” with a “voice-over all over it.”
“It was, like, insane,” Gray said. “If the film had come out in Weinstein’s version, what would’ve happened is you would’ve seen it and said, ‘James Gray is incompetent.'”