Maverick US distributor/producer Harvey Weinstein is so notorious for cutting films that he acquires he earned the soubriquet Harvey Scissorhands.
So it’s not surprising that Weinstein is embroiled in another row, this time with Korean director Bong Joon-ho over his post-Apocalyptic sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer.
The English-language film stars Chris Evans as the leader of a revolt on a train that carries the last survivors of the human race after an experiment to end global warming fails. The cast includes Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Ko Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris and. Octavia Spencer.
Bong’s 126 minute film opened in Korea on August 1, selling nearly 3.3 million tickets in the first five days for a gross of US$21.4 million.
The Weinstein Co. pre-bought the rights for the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It will be released in Oz by Roadshow Films.
The Hollywood Reporter hailed the film as an “ambitious piece with a universally comprehensible theme and accessible aesthetics… a unique vision of a despairing present channelled through a dystopian future.”
IF has learned that Weinstein is demanding Bong slash the running time by 20 minutes for the version to be released in TWC’s territories.
“TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma,’" English writer and film festival programmer Tony Rayns told IF.
“Leaving aside the issue of what Weinstein thinks of its audience, it seems to say the least anomalous that the rest of the English-speaking world has to be dragged down to the presumed level of American mid-west hicks,” added Rayns, who attended the film’s premiere in Seoul and spoke with the filmmaker, whose credits include The Host and Memories of Murder.
According to Rayns, Bong said the cuts would eliminate much of the character detail, which would make the film seem more like an action movie. Weinstein is also adding opening and closing voice-overs.
“Nobody (least of all Bong himself) is optimistic that his rear-guard actions against the ‘Weinstein version’ will get his original version released in English-speaking territories, but I hope that Oz, like the UK, will fight the good fight to protest Weinstein’s cuts,” said Rayns.
“If the ‘Weinstein version’ flops in theatres, it may at least speed up release of what I'm sure Weinstein will call ‘the director's cut’ on Blu-ray and DVD.”
Weinstein earned his reputation after cutting films such as Shaolin Soccer, Hero and Princess Mononoke for US release. "I'm not cutting for fun," he once told journalist Ken Auletta. “I'm cutting for the shit to work. All my life I served one master: the film. I love movies."
TWC and Snowpiercer producer CJ Entertainment did not respond to emails seeking comment. Roadshow has not set a release date yet.