Harvey Weinstein on Best Pictures, ‘Snowpiercer’ and Theatrical vs. VOD & His “Harvey Scissorhands” Nickname

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Harvey Weinstein and Michael Keaton attend the 6th Annual Governors Awards
Photo: Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Harvey Weinstein is one of the most powerful, outspoken, and controversial men in Hollywood. The studio executive who launched Miramax and The Weinstein Company is a passionate film lover, a master promoter, a ruthless Oscar campaigner, and just about everything else you need to be in order to make it to the top in the business. Even if you find what he does unscrupulous or the content he produces not very good, it is hard not to admire the man for how successful he has made himself, no matter how frustrating it might be.

Weinstein recently had a chat with Deadline, covering a wide variety of topics from the Netflix series “Marco Polo” to the troubles with the upcoming Broadway musical adaptation of Finding Neverland to Oscar campaigning to his reputation of recutting films, giving him the nickname “Harvey Scissorhands.”

I had no idea the Weinsteins were behind “Marco Polo”, mainly because that show is barely a blip on my radar. I honestly do not know a single person who has watched or is interested in watching that show. According to Harvey, though, it has been quite the success:

Well for us the worldwide success of Marco Polo has been breathtaking, and an eye opener. The reviews here in America were not great. The audience reaction on Netflix is stupendous. It’s the second highest they’ve ever had on a series. The reaction internationally has been huge. The movie is dubbed so we used an all Asian cast. Talk about diversity. We didn’t hire a big TV actor, like Bryan Cranston to play Kublai Khan. We hired Mongolians for Mongolians, Chinese for Chinese, other nationalities for their nationalities.

I applaud them for those casting decisions… but I am still not interested in the show. The Weinsteins are also working on another project with Netflix: the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel, which will simultaneously be released on Netflix and on IMAX screens. This tactic has a lot of theaters feeling cheated.

The rise of Video on Demand is, unfortunately, happening, and Harvey is willing to go along with it. The Weinstein Company recently had a pretty good VOD success with Snowpiercer.

I didn’t see the movie as commercial in a 2500 screen launch, which they wanted to do. I saw it as an art house film, the way he directed it. I said we should cut 20 minutes and a few other things. Major directors who I will not name said the same thing to me. Some of the biggest directors in the world said Harvey’s helping you. We came up with this idea about VOD and Snowpiercer worked great. Then I got criticized. They said, had I had the guts to go wide with such a great movie it would have done well. I owned Australia on the movie and I told them, go wide. We bombed. I wanted to see it for myself and then every other country, with the exception of France where the comic book is based and South Korea where Bong Joon Ho is a huge hero, and the movie didn’t work anywhere except for America where we did this VOD platform and it was a spectacular hit. Nobody writes that article, one that says, that son of a bitch was right.

This gets to the heart of his “Harvey Scissorhands” nickname. Harvey has become rather infamous for getting a final cut of the film and greatly tinkering with it. Recently, The Grandmaster fell victim to this cutting, having around 20 minutes cut from the original Chinese release. The result was pretty horrible, having title cards explain the story between action scenes. The interview, coincidentally, doesn’t cover that… Puff piece? Snowpiercer was one Weinstein wanted to cut, but Bong Joon-ho stuck to his guns on that one.

Another film under this threat is the still domestically unreleased Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly. The film has received pretty horrific reviews out of Cannes and places where it actually has opened. Harvey attributes this to the director veering totally off of what the script was:

The script we signed on for was like The King’s Speech, with the big moment where Princess Grace steps up. That is what attracted Nicole. I made eight movies with her including co-producing The Hours with Paramount, and The Others. I know why she took it and why I was involved. I’d seen rushes that were great. The director is French, and he turned it more into a Hitchcock movie like a paean to Vertigo, which ironically Grace wasn’t in. The writer, Arash Amel, called me and said, what happened to my script. It’s like welcome to Hollywood.

He attests, though, there is still good material to be mined out of what was shot to get the “writer’s cut”:

That movie would have been helped greatly by the writer’s cut of the film and it’s something that people should see someday. It wasn’t a transformative movie but it was a damn entertaining one. But Olivier Dahan wanted to do what Olivier wanted to do. He called me names in the French newspapers. I figured the best thing to do was to step out. I had already said what I had to say and let Cannes be the judge. I was with Georgina at a refugee camp and I’m reading all these accounts of how Harvey Weinstein must have been a genius for trying to prevent this; now we get it. That moniker of Harvey Scissorhands has always followed me and simply put, it was made up by a competitor who probably has re-cut more movies than I have. I’ve never cut a movie behind anybody’s back.

My question is: why would you hire someone to direct the film if his vision of it is totally off from yours? That does not make a lot of sense to me. If they had, you know, talked about what they wanted to do beforehand, Harvey would have seen it was not the right fit. Or maybe he is backpedalling and does not want to take blame for anything?

An interview is not complete with Harvey Weinstein unless you talk about the Oscars. Weinstein is behind one of this year’s Best Picture nominees, The Imitation Game, which seems to be falling out of favor somewhat. Obviously, he would like to see the film take home that honor (it won’t), but Harvey has much bigger aspirations for what he would like the film to accomplish.

Pardons for the 49,000 people is probably most important. If Turing got honored for his genius, that would be great too. You see heroes all the time, but never one who built a computer, used it to defeat the Nazis, and who was gay. We’ve never had a gay protagonist win Best Picture. It just doesn’t happen.

He equates this with the result of Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, which famously was a big reason for the release of Randall Adams after he was wrongly convicted of murder. I agree that all 49,000 people who were prosecuted for being gay should be pardoned, and if this movie is able to help achieve that, great! It’s still not winning Best Picture…

There is so much more in his interview with Deadline, including some talk about Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight and the coexisting of film and digital. I highly suggest giving it a read, even if the interviewer is a bit light on follow up questions and not giving pushback on Harvey’s answers. You will also see how the interviewer equates the Sony hack with Charlie Hebdo, which is so wrong I could write a whole new article about that (people being murdered does not equal some personal information getting out). I won’t. I’m calm.

Harvey Wesintein is a fascinating figure, even if a bit detestable at times. I like a lot of things he has produced and will usually be interested in the projects he has on his slate. Again, you can read the interview here.

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Weekend: Jun. 27, 2019, Jun. 30, 2019

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