Two incredibly different movies with one unique thing in common hit theaters. Disney unleashed The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and Fox released long in-development Bohemian Rhapsody. One of these films is a fairy tale that hopes to bring in the same audience that rushed to see Alice in Wonderland almost a decade ago. The other is a biopic about a rock legend whose story is muddled for the big screen. Both films used a second director when the first director couldn’t finish the project.
If you see The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, you’ll notice that two directors share the “directed by” credit on the movie. This is an extreme rarity because DGA rules only allow a single director to be credited on a motion picture. The rule is only waved for well-established teams. That’s why you will see movies directed by Ethan and Joel Cohen, Joe and Anthony Russo, or Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. These are well established duos and are unique cases.
What makes Nutcracker weird is that Lasse Hallstrom was the director originally hired. He’s best known for films like Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He had directed the film with the materials they gave him. It didn’t turn out so hot. Disney decided that the film would go under significant reshoots. According to THR, someone would do them throughout 32 days and have new material written by Oscar winner Tom McCarthy. That is a lot of time to ask a director to come back and shoot a movie and Hallstrom wasn’t available. Here, Disney hired Joe Johnson (Captain America: The First Avenger) to come in and complete the film.
Disney has a history of changing directors for their films. With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, director Gareth Edwards was credited as the director but there were significant edits done to the ending by Tony Gilroy. Another Star Wars film, Solo: A Star Wars Story also changed directors mid-stream and ended up crediting Ron Howard for the film and gave Phil Lord and Christopher Miller executive production credits. Nutcracker is different because both men decided they should share the credit. When you see Nutcracker in theaters it will be directed by Hallstrom and Johnson, something that the DGA could not previously remember happening.
That same peer relationship could not be shared for Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Fox announced that Dexter Fletcher would replace Bryan Singer as director of the Queen biopic. Singer was fired from the movie because he was absent multiple times on shooting days. Star Rami Malek complained to studio executives about Singer’s work ethic and unprofessional behavior. This not even including the various allegations against Bryan Singer. We’ve reported about Singer before and how he has been credibly accused of raping Cesar Sanchez-Guzman, who was a 17-year-old boy at the time of the incident. Esquire has also mentioned that they have a story on Singer’s sex abuse allegations. While none of these allegations led to Singer being fired (they should have), Fletcher brought the film to the finish line.
The DGA had a determination to make. They had to give credit to the individual who directed most of the film, regardless of the individual being fired. The means that Singer is the sole directing credit and Fox gave Fletcher an executive producer credit. How much of the film Fletcher changed will be anyone’s guess, but Fletcher gets his own music biopic with Rocketman coming next year. The biggest issue here has got to be the DGA rules that are in place. Perhaps the rules shouldn’t be as cut and dry as they are. Article 8 of the DGA guidelines gives instructions on how to handle “Controversy Over Credits.” Directors are given an opportunity to appeal to the Guild and fight for their credit. In this case, even if Fox wanted to give Fletcher the credit, Singer could’ve fought for it. Fletcher has said in interviews that he never wanted directing credit anyways. Problem solved.
Nutcracker and Bohemian Rhapsody have different reasons for changing directors. Availability vs. Firing. But it both films might have suffered from letting someone else taking the finished product across the finish line. Both films have poor Rotten Tomatoes scores of 58% for Bohemian Rhapsody and 33% for Nutcracker. Both films will probably skate to respectable box office returns given the subject and branding behind them. One can’t help but wonder if the films would’ve enjoyed a single director or whether these films would never be any good anyways.
Recent history has shown that studios are prepared to part with directors when production isn’t going right. Disney and Fox have made moves with these feature films, but these aren’t the first and won’t be the last. Everyone of these multi-million dollar projects take a lot of pieces to make it to the multiplexes and there is an expectation to get them right. Whether the DGA evaluates its rules for director credit is another conversation, but it is one worth having.