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Monday, July 14, 2008

Why Do Studio Execs Have To Screw With Directors So Much?

Bet you didn't realize that Spike Jones ( director of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation ) was making a film version of the children's classic book Where The Wild Things Are.

The film was shot back in 2006 ( yep, it's been that long already ) and it apparently didn't "test" well.

The film has been pushed back until 2009. Word in the hills is that Warner Bros is extremely unhappy with the finished product. Test screening audiences have complained that the film is too adult and even too scary for children. One audience member wrote:

“I don’t think it’s for young children. They’d probably like the video version from ‘The Children’s Circle’ better.”

Another test screener writes:

“And some kids at my screening began to cry and asked their parents to leave, so that should give you an idea.” “The things are not cute. Max comes off a bit weird and off-putting ‘He slaps his mom!’ and he seems confused and not charming at all.” “No rumpus, no big set pieces, no ’state-of-the-art’ lucrative sequences just some running around on some desert place and thats that.”

Apparently, these "testers" were expecting complex, digital special effects, explosions, long, drawn-out chase sequences. I mean, were they expecting this to be some slap-dash hackery put together by Micheal Bay or something?

Some of the problems seem to have started when a 'test sequence' was leaked onto the internet and people were thinking it was a post-production sample. Spike released this statement:

“that was a very early test with the sole purpose of just getting some footage to Ben our vfx (visual effects) supervisor to see if our vfx plan for the faces would work. The clip doesn’t look or feel anything like the movie, the Wild Thing suit is a very early cringy prototype, and the boy is a friend of ours Griffin who we had used in a Yeah Yeah Yeahs video we shot a few weeks before. We love him, but he is not in the actually film…Oh and that is not a wolf suit, its a lamb suit we bought on the internet. Talk to you later…”

The video has subsequently been removed, though it was quite interesting to see that even a 'work in progress test shooting' was so clean already.

Then the rumors started that Spike was almost to the point of removing his name from the project. It appeared that this would end up being an Alan Smithee project.

But, Spike came back with another statement:

“Yet I’m hearing that just such a massive reshoot is what is on the table right now. And it’s not because of technical issues, unless you want to consider the lead kid actor and the script technical issues. Sources tell me that the suits at Legendary and Warner Bros are not happy with Max Records, the actor playing Max, the mischievous boy who is crowned King of the Wild Things. Worse than that, they don’t like the film’s tone and want to go back to the script drawing board, possibly losing the Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers script when they do it. Apparently the film is too weird and ‘too scary,’ and the character of Max is being seen as not likable.”

Now, keep in mind that the film is complete. This was back in February.

Well, there's more news now:

The Los Angeles Times managed to get Warners honcho Alan Horn to go on the record about the troubled project and Jonze's efforts to make it work (to the studio's liking). "We've given him more money and, even more importantly, more time for him to work on the film," Horn told the paper.

The studio boss added, "We'd like to find a common ground that represents Spike's vision but still offers a film that really delivers for a broad-based audience. We obviously still have a challenge on our hands. But I wouldn't call it a problem, simply a challenge. No one wants to turn this into a bland, sanitized studio movie. This is a very special piece of material and we're just trying to get it right."

While Horn concedes that the "jury is still out on this one," he believes Jonze "is going to figure things out and at the end of the day we'll have an artistically compelling movie."

So now, it seems that no one knows when this is going to be released in theatres. Warner Brothers has even pulled it from it's release schedule for 'the forseeable future'.

Kind of reminds me of the last Exorcist film that was released about 4 years ago. The studio didn't like Paul Schrader's version so they had Renny Harlin reshoot it.

If you know anything about those two guys, you'll know that the studio really fucked that one up. I mean seriously, Renny Harlin?! The guy that did Cliffhanger!?

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