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How Personal Rivalries Shelved Martin Scorsese's Cut Of Kenneth Lonergan's 'Margaret' & More From NY Times Profile

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 19, 2012 at 1:36PM

One of the stories of last year's award season was the small, but vocal campaign to give Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" more recognition that its studio Fox Searchlight was willing to give it. Already delayed thanks to a protracted and ugly legal and creative battle, that the movie hit theaters at all was something of a minor miracle. But as most who had followed tortured production knew, the cut released in theaters was a compromised version of what Lonergan set out to achieve. Nonetheless, whether you thought the film was a masterpiece or not, there was no doubt he had created something that was special: a post 9/11 drama that used one teenage girl's coming-of-age as a metaphor for a city dealing with the emotional fallout of a national tragedy.
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Margaret Anna Paquin
4. By many accounts, the 3 hour version of "Margaret" is a "masterpiece"
Mark Ruffalo has been one of the film's strongest champions, but not just because he's in it. Having been close to the process for so long, and seen the longer edit -- which he has previously called "absolutely incredible" -- he once again reiterates how good the 3 hour version is, and how chopping it down and retaining that strength was an impossible task. “And I said: ‘Kenny, you made a masterpiece. Unfortunately it’s in the wrong decade and the wrong country,’ ” Ruffalo said. “I’m pretty merciless...I’m not precious about this stuff. But it was like trying to move a house of cards a hundred yards in a windstorm. Once you pull out a single thread, the whole thing falls down.”

Meanwhile, actor Josh Hamilton, who has appeared in handful of Lonergan's plays, attened an early reading of the script and even then saw the strength of the work. “One of the reasons it was so difficult is indicative of what his great talent is,” Hamilton shared. “I remember doing a reading of that screenplay in his living room years ago — it must have been 500 pages. I mean, it was all day. But it was one of the greatest screenplays I’d ever read in my life.”

Margaret Anna Paquin Matt Damon
5. Even though Scott Rudin himself was frustrated with Lonergan, he still stands behind the director
Among the five producers on the film is respected Hollywood veteran Scott Rudin, who doesn't mince words about "Margaret," a project that also found him clashing with Lonergan. “Kenny’s not a guy who takes distractions well or easily. He’s somebody who is highly concentrated on the work and not at all interested in the politics. So when the politics started to become noisier than the work, that was hard for him,” he says adding that during the lengthy editing sessions "it became clear that no amount of pushing was going to get it done.”

However, a legal case between Gilbert and Lonergan is still ongoing with the producer/financier accusing the director and studio of "obstructing" his efforts to finish "Margaret." Whatever the difficulties might have been, Rudin is clear that a movie is the director's vision and nobody else's, and has lent a statement in support of Lonergan's motion to dismiss the case. “The guy who pays for the movie is not supposed to be [in the editing room]. . . . He’s a guy who wrote a check," he said in a depostion, adding, “Mr. Gilbert badly hurt the movie. Mr. Gilbert going in and working in the editorial department was a very destructive act.”

“If you’re making a movie with Kenny Lonergan and you sign off on the script, he’s the director, that’s the compact you made," Rudin elaborated to the NY Times. "Because you decide that you’re anxious about your investment, that doesn’t give you the right to completely recalibrate your relationship.” We're pretty sure that's a lesson many producers in Hollywood could use.

So lost masterpiece or troubled from the start? We'll get a close to a final answer as possible when the extended, 3 hour cut of "Margaret" arrives on July 10th.

This article is related to: Margaret, Kenneth Lonergan, Martin Scorsese, Mark Ruffalo


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