Joe Lynch’s removal from Knights of Badassdom has been a very public affair in the online world. The movie that surprised Comic-Con audiences all those years ago that disappeared only to re-emerge went through its troubles, namely Lynch’s cut being butchered in an editing bay. Directors don’t always (or normally) have final cut, but what Lynch is going through is a matter of being locked out completely. The film was recently picked up for distribution, but, from the sound of it, we won’t be seeing Lynch’s version any time soon.
We don’t hear about these behind-the-scenes issues that often, but another famous case was The Weinstein Company’s handling of 2009’s immigration drama Crossing Over. Despite featuring Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Alice Eve, Ashley Judd, and a few other familiar faces, the movie went unnoticed at the box office and critics didn’t much care for it. In addition to the strong cast, it was directed by Wayne Kramer, the man behind The Cooler and Running Scared. Those are two fully-realized movies, while Crossing Over is a movie that, although containing commendable performances and moments, never quite comes together in the way that it should. And there’s a reason for that.
The film certainly doesn’t deserve a 16% on Rottentomatoes, but, even Kramer would agree, it’s not on par with his other work. There are many, many political reasons why that’s the case, and when we spoke with Kramer for his new film, Pawn Shop Chronicles, he was ready to speak about the serious troubles he ran into at the Weinstein Company.
Have you ever spoken to Harvey Weinstein about releasing your Director’s Cut?
You know, I didn’t exit that whole process on very good terms with him. I feel like if I did go back there and ask if I could do it, he’d just say, “Fuck you.” [Laughs] It’s hard to talk about it, but I don’t know if someone who did or didn’t like Crossing Over would like my cut differently, but it was a different film. It was at least 25 minutes longer, more layered, more textured, and had a whole Sean Penn wraparound sequence that was a ghost story. It’s very hard for me to see the theatrical version and not see the missing scenes.
There were problems with Sean Penn and his political views on the film that the people on the ball could’ve dealt with. The sad thing is, Sean’s role was written for Paul Walker. Paul was going to do the movie, but Harvey wanted Sean Penn to play the role. I would’ve been more than happy for Paul to do it. I loved working with Sean and he’s an awesome actor.
But it was a tough process.
If I ever write a book about it one day, I think it would go down as one of the most mishandled, brutalized, kicked around movies of all time. Even the Writer’s Guild dragged me over the coals on that movie. They arbitrated me against myself. That film was based on a short film I did, which was the Sean Penn sequence. When it was excised out of the final film there was absolutely no source material to the film, even though it was my source material. The Writers Guild still wouldn’t let me get a “Written and Directed By” credit. You couldn’t catch a break on that film. I mean, John Murphy’s beautiful score was just cast away.
It’s funny, Americans don’t like that film very much. I don’t think the movie lectures, but they don’t want to be lectured about immigration. I get letters all the time from immigrants who live in this country or foreign countries who are utterly fascinated by it, though. They’re starting to show it at Universities overseas, and I know that because I get invited to talk about. The movie has some afterlife, but it doesn’t resonate in America itself.
After an experience like that, how do you move forward?
It’s very hard to move forward. I don’t think people understand how brutalizing it is to you while you’re going through it. This is your baby. That movie was very personal to me, because I had also gone through the journey of being an immigrant — and I wanted to write about that as a film.
To see it being dismantled week after week and all the things you thought had nuance…I mean, the sex scenes were more explicit in my original cut. You go through a preview audience and they say, “We don’t need to see all this nudity!” It’s, like, where were they on the set when you were making it? I think that’s where it’s going in the future: you’re going to have a 12-person marketing committee picked from a general public questioning every decision you make, because that’s what they do it in post-production.
[Laughs] At what point did problems arise?
I never got a single note throughout production from the producers or The Weinstein Company. Everyone was thrilled with the dailies, it was a great shoot, and every single actor and myself got on well. It was just when we got into post-production it became…I think the problem is Harvey saw it more as a serious social commentary, so I guess he didn’t feel the grittier elements I brought into it, whether it was the sex scenes or the extended storylines. He felt that all got in the way of it being whatever the important type of movie he saw it as.
For me, it wasn’t trying to be Crash. [Laughs] Whenever I come out with a movie, it’s always processed throughout the shadow of another movie — that makes you want to reach for the stars of originality in material. You think you have to do something that’s never been done before, but then you say, “Nah, fuck, man, just go ahead and make the movies you want to make. Who cares if people think Tarantino or Aronofsky already got there? Just go and have a blast.”
That’s a good way of looking at it. I have to say, whenever people diss Harrison Ford and some of the choices he makes nowadays, this is one of those movies I’ll point to as an example of him doing interesting work.
I thought so, too. I really thought he brought a great part to that, and I’m surprised he didn’t get more love for that. It’s now become known as the lowest-grossing Harrison Ford film of all time. You know, I don’t know if the media is looking for hits or soundbites with those things, but when you trash something and say Harrison Ford should never do an independent film again, I think they should just look at what’s there. Thank you for saying that, though.
I’ll tell you, I don’t think you’d find a director who thinks they’ve ever made a perfect film. After it’s done you’ll torture yourself with details you didn’t catch on the set, something you should’ve cut, or something you shouldn’t have cut. It’s hard maintaining your sanity, but I’m glad these movies give people enjoyment. That’s what they’re made for, but they do take years off your life.
Pawn Shop Chronicles is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 27th.