By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 1, 2012 at 10:01AM
Reshoots: they're the new principal photography, it would seem. Every so often, a story will crop up that some major movie has reassembled its cast and crew for what's usually referred to as "additional photography." And it's easy for that to be blown up into some kind of scaremongering story, when in actual fact, it's hard to find a film that doesn't go back for more after the main bulk of its shoot has wrapped. More often than not it's for "pick-ups" -- filling in some gaps, fixing some scenes that may have had some technical issues. Sometimes it's to add a new ending, or new scenes elsewhere in the picture, which may have occured to the filmmakers once in post-production. Virtually every major movie budgets and schedules for a week or two of additional photography, and almost every successful movie of the last few years -- "Avatar," "The Avengers," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" -- had some kind of reshoots.
But that's not to say that they're always a good sign. According to The Hollywood Reporter, one of the reasons that the budget on "John Carter" went so high is that director Andrew Stanton, used to reworking films while at Pixar, "embarked on extensive and costly reshoots" (something fervently denied by the helmer, who called it "a complete and utter lie," saying that Disney had let him go for longer reshoots because his principal photography had come in on time and on budget). Regardless of who you believe, the reports helped start the media feeding frenzy on "John Carter," now one of the biggest money-losers of the year.
Other films had it even worse -- both "The Invasion" and "Jonah Hex" famously replaced their directors for extensive reshoots, with Oliver Hirschbiegel swapped out for James McTeigue on the former, and Jimmy Hayward for Francis Lawrence on the latter. In neither case did it help to make the film better, or more coherent, and both flopped at the box office. Now, in 2012, we are seeing some high profile movies being pushed back significantly in order to accomodate vast, expensive, expansive reshoots, and some of these may point to signs of trouble.
First, there was "47 Ronin." The Japanese-set epic, starring Keanu Reeves, and budgeted at $175 million or so, started filming early last summer, and was set for a key tentpole release date in late November. But shortly before Christmas, we started to hear rumors around the London filmmaking community that the film was planning 6-8 weeks of reshoots at Shepperton Studios, and that it was possible that debut director Carl Erik Rinsch (a commercials helmer who at one point was set to direct the film that became "Prometheus," before his father-in-law Ridley Scott stepped in instead) wouldn't be involved, with Universal bringing another helmer in to direct them.
We couldn't confirm anything at the time, but reports soon emerged that backed it up: The Hollywood Reporter said that after a "tense, combatative shoot," the film had gone way over budget, and the studio had brought in executives embedded on the shoot to crack down on the director. A new editor was being brought in, and the studio were said to considering whether to let Rinsch shoot desired additional action sequences. And it sounds as if they gave in: back in April, Universal announced that they were pushing the film to February 2013, in order to, as they claimed, perfect the 3D effects. In reality, it's been an open secret that the film's had substantial and costly reshoots, although it's unclear if Rinsch was behind the camera on them.
Then, a few weeks later, Paramount, in almost unprecedent move, delayed "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" nine months, to March 2013, only five weeks before release. Initially, the company said that it was because they'd decided to convert the film to 3D in order to boost international box office. In reality, it seems, executives looked at the film and worried that they wouldn't be able to compete in a crowded marketplace, with "The Amazing Spider-Man" landing a week later, and wanted to add more of Channing Tatum, who was originally to be killed off. Since his star went supernova this year, Tatum now much more value to the company (we've heard that a certain freshly-minted star felt he'd been badly treated by the company, and wanted nothing to do with any reshoots, but a deal may have since been made).