Update: Earlier this afternoon, I started getting emails from Universal insisting that The Playlist's main contention - that Universal Co-Chair Donna Langley is overseeing a studio cut of the THE WOLFMAN - is incorrect. I just got off the phone with producer Scott Stuber, and he has assured me that they have settled on a cut (which tested strongly back in November), and are now in the process of mixing, getting the final f/x and dropping in credits. Here are the particulars according to Stuber:
1) It was Joe Johnston's idea to bring in editor Walter Murch after the spring '09 reshoots to supply a "fresh perspective" and, most importantly, get the film in shape. "We were running a little long in that phase because we'd added new footage," said Stuber. "So it was about shaping that footage. There's never been that kind of contention; it's never been this editing suite vs. that editing suite." Stuber had nothing but praise for Dennis Virkler's work, and insisted this was all about getting a new pair of eyes. My opinion: if Walter Murch is willing to work on your film, you hire Walter Murch.
2) Murch did the bulk of the work. Mark Goldblatt was only on for three or four weeks to assist with a complicated London set piece.
3) Moving the release date from November to February was all about finishing the f/x, particularly in that London sequence. "You have all of these backgrounds you've got to get right," said Stuber. "All of these period buildings and the way they're lit. They weren't getting finished correctly, so they sort of took you out of [the film] a little bit. Getting the extra six weeks to work on that stuff was helpful."
4) Per Stuber: "The thing about Donna [Langley]... they weren't really involved in that stuff. They knew [what we were] doing, and they were supportive of it, but there's never been an editing room that was sanctioned by the studio against the filmmakers."
5) The dual test screenings in November were not dueling test screenings. "There were sequences or pieces that we wanted to try differently," said Stuber. "And we did them back-to-back so we could watch them. Like when [inspector Francis] Abbberline (Hugo Weaving) arrives at the house for the first time." Basically, it was all about rhythm and pacing. Nothing major. By the way, they've got their R-rating from the MPAA, so don't worry about that being rescinded.
6) The future of Universal's other "Classic Monsters" is not contingent on the success of THE WOLFMAN. Each of these projects is its own entity, and they all have little to do with one another.
Overall, Stuber sounded pleased with the film. Obviously, he's relieved that this multi-year odyssey is coming to a close, but everything seems to be coming together. In fact, we might have some very good WOLFMAN-related news to share with you this week or next, so stay tuned.
And just... completely disregard the below story...
Maybe "battling" is too strong. Perhaps "just not seeing eye-to-eye" is more accurate. Regardless, it's newsworthy that, according to The Playlist, Universal and director Joe Johnston are still... jostling over the final cut of THE WOLFMAN - which, ready or not, opens in theaters worldwide the week of February 12th.
While it's common for directors of huge studio movies to be editing right down to the wire, it's rare for a studio and its filmmaker to be this far apart a month from release - especially on a picture that wrapped principal photography a year-and-a-half ago. And while there have been reshoots, they've still had six months or so to incorporate/refine/surrender - with editing legends Walter Murch and Mark Goldblatt pitching in! So what's the deal?
Here's what I know: last month, just a week or so before Butt-Numb-A-Thon, Universal test screened two versions of THE WOLF MAN. I talked to two people who saw one of the cuts, and their reaction was, shockingly, quite positive. They were surprised that the film a) took the time to conjure a "Classic Monster" atmosphere, and b) was bloody as hell. Both had quibbles with second act pacing and dialogue, but they agreed that the movie basically finished strong. I thought about running a story back then, but figured, since the movie had apparently come together at the eleventh hour, that we would likely see it at BNAT. Alas, that did not happen.
In any event, this news that Johnston and Universal Co-Chair Donna Langley are still cutting away (the latter with yet another, unnamed editor) completely confounds me - unless it's a running time issue. Very often, with a movie this troubled and expensive, the studio will push for a ninety-minute, emphasize-the-action slam job in order to maximize showings over opening weekend. If this is what's going on with THE WOLF MAN (and I sincerely hope it isn't), then I could understand the studio's desire to keep cutting.
I know everyone wants to assume the worst here, but I'm not so inclined. The fact that they're still slaving away on THE WOLFMAN after last month's test screening (which impressed my sources) indicates to me that there's something worth saving. I mean, you don't hire Walter Murch to sift through your garbage. That said, it's strange for Universal to be having auteur issues with the capable Johnston, who was hired to guide this troubled production to the finish line with as little fuss as possible after they'd spent a considerable amount of development dollars on Mark Romanek's initial vision. (Please don't take this as a shot at Johnston: I love THE ROCKETEER and OCTOBER SKY. It's just that this seemed like it was another for-hire gig for him, ala JURASSIC PARK 3.)
I have no idea if Universal is planning one last emergency run of test screenings for THE WOLFMAN, but, if so, all tips and reviews are welcome!