Rolling Thunder and Hardcore (and Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) scribe Paul Schrader has had more than his fair share of production problems over the past decade. Like the circumstances that eventually led to two The Exorcist prequels hitting theaters in 2004-2005, for example, or whatever the hell was happening on The Canyons. But, for better or worse, Schrader is always able to get the money to make another movie. His newest, the Nicolas Cage thriller The Dying Of The Light, is currently in post-production—and that’s where the problems come in.
Rumors of conflict between Schrader and his producers first emerged via a mysterious (and now defunct) Facebook page that claimed, “The movie is now recut and the control of the film was taken away from Mr. Schrader two months ago.” That assertion has been confirmed—sort of—by Variety, which spoke with Schrader, executive producer Nicolas Winding Refn, and producers Todd Williams and Gary Hirsch about the ongoing situation.
According to Williams and Hirsch, Schrader’s rough cut of The Dying Of The Light differed substantially from his script, and they gave him substantial notes on the cut. A second rough cut only incorporated a few of their changes, at which point Williams and Hirsch claim Schrader effectively quit the film and left them to finish it with a new editor.
However, Schrader takes issue with this version of events. He did walk away from the project, he admits, but only after Williams and Hirsch fired his editor, Tim Silano, and told Schrader he no longer had creative control over the film. “They finally showed me their cut only as they were entering final post-production. It was a fait accompli,” he says. Refn agrees with Schrader, saying Schrader’s cut of the film is “absolutely terrific” and cutting it without his participation is an act of “artistic disrespect” to a director who has heavily influenced Refn’s own career.
Williams and Hirsch counter that the final film is 80-percent similar to Schrader’s rough cut, and, according to Hirsch, “I think people are going to like the movie and wonder what Paul was complaining about.” But Refn thinks there ought to be more complaining, saying, “If there’s enough people who want to see this film the right way, the way it was meant to be, hopefully that will be an eye-opener to the people who are expecting to make money on it.”
For what it’s worth, all parties agree that Nicolas Cage is really good in the film, and Refn says Cage is “very frustrated” by the mistreatment of a movie he is “very proud of.”