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Ridley Scott Says He Prefers Director's Cut Of 'The Counselor,' Mocks Fox Studio's Prudishness

by Drew Taylor
February 28, 2014 5:21 PM
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The Shoot


Scott admits early-on that this is a "low budget" movie for him (somewhere "under $30 million") and as such the production had to enact a number of cost-cutting measures, including, bizarrely, filming the entire thing in Europe. (There's a lone North American shot where the Counselor is driving along the border that was picked up by an intrepid second unit crew.) Interiors and city environments were shot in London, while the desert stuff was shot in Spain. What makes the London part of the shoot even more interesting is that they were filming in the summer, where they had to contend with the logistical nightmares of the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee. This probably explains a lot of why the movie has such an off-kilter feel; it's Scott's idea of what Texas should be instead of what it is. (Concluded McCarthy: "Only the geologists will tell the difference.")

Still, Scott has fun pointing out some of the landmarks that doubled for some of the characters haunts. A nightclub owned by Javier Bardem's Reiner character is actually, "this big thing on the East End called the Ministry of Sound. It's a big, famous old disco." Elsewhere, you watch his art department skeleton crew furiously covering up native signage and other aspects of the landscape that would give away where it was actually filmed.

Elsewhere, you learn that Scott's style on the film didn't involve a lot of preparation. He described it as almost like shooting a documentary in a way. This was aided in the fact that "The Counselor" was the first non-3D movie that the filmmaker had shot digitally. He takes a typically philosophical approach to the debate between digital and film: "It's like an electronic cello—when well played, can you really tell the difference?" Later on he shrugs, "There was a time when I liked grain. Now I like to see everything." (He also loves that all of the digital "prints" are perfect—and look exactly the same.)

The Audience

The Counselor

While it becomes very clear that Scott has a pained relationship between the cut that went out to the theaters and the one that he is presenting here, and that he's keenly aware of how much audiences can handle (he said that his adaptation of McCarthy's "Blood Meridian," written by "The Departed's" William Moynahan, was shelved because it was "irredeemably dark" and "the orchestration of death was so endless, I had to wonder if it should remain a book"), he can still take a stand.

Scott seems irritable when describing the audience's somewhat befuddled reaction to the film. "Cell phones have made them more sophisticated," Scott begins. "But I am finding out more so they want to go for the simplistic ride. And this is not simplistic at all." Indeed: the movie was marketed as something much more familiar and streamlined, and Scott cannot be blamed for that. Later he revisits the topic of the audience's confusion. "People, when they saw the film, were confused about why he needs the money. Most people need the money all the time," Scott said. "People thought it was the diamond that put him against the wall. It's like a good novel: sit there, read it and enjoy it." (Several times he points out that there were a handful of critics who championed the film and seems endlessly grateful.)

I couldn't agree with Scott more, especially when it comes to the director's cut of the movie and its accompanying commentary track: sit there and enjoy. You'll be rewarded with one of the weirdest, wildest, most fulfilling films of Scott's career, one that I can see having a long, long life to come, which is kind of ironic given how brief most of the characters' lives are in this movie. Oh well. The truth has no temperature.

"The Counselor" is on Blu-ray and DVD now. The extended version is only available on the Blu-ray package. 

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  • Artchuleta | March 1, 2014 4:56 PMReply

    "Only the geologists will tell the difference." No, no, no, no. It took me out of the film. What makes El Paso / Juarez such an interesting place is the drastic contrast between a safe, clean city and one of the world's dirt hell holes

  • Brian | March 1, 2014 2:42 PMReply

    I love The Counselor.
    Masterpiece art.
    Thank you Cormac and Ridley.

  • Jose Hermosillo | March 1, 2014 2:08 PMReply

    What about reshot the entare movie in an authentic location with an authentic cast. This film is on top of my list as the worse movie of the year. Not even the "director's cut" can save it. It's terrible.

  • Gustavo | March 1, 2014 1:04 PMReply

    Great read, very informative.

    And the extended movie kicks ass.

  • Marvin | February 28, 2014 11:40 PMReply

    The theatrical cut is vastly superior in every way. The "Director's Cut" is essential just the deleted scenes plugged back into the movie to give perspective buyers some added incentive. The added scenes are hopelessly redundant (a new scene features Diaz telling Cruz that she "can't advise" her), improve nothing and actually remove a great deal of subtlety (or as Scott puts it, "taste"). A great film originally. Skip the "extended" nonsense.

  • Glass | February 28, 2014 9:16 PMReply

    This movie was a huge disappointment, but that commentary/doc has me thinking about buying it... Shit.

  • Brad | February 28, 2014 8:39 PMReply

    Drew Taylor is shocked - SHOCKED I TELLS YA - that some films aren't shot where they are set. It's just one of MANY of his criticisms in which Scott will say something and then Taylor will declare that the film is shit for that reason.

  • MMS | February 28, 2014 8:10 PMReply

    The Blu-ray is only labeled to house an "Extended Cut," and as such would be a more fitting describtion in the subject title.. Nonetheless, and to accommodate the meaning of the subject title, one wonders why the longer cut isn't simply called the "Director's Cut"?

  • MMS | February 28, 2014 8:14 PM

    I.e.: "... one wonders why the longer cut isn't simply LABELED the "Director's Cut" on the Blu-ray."

  • Bab | February 28, 2014 8:01 PMReply

    This is a guaranteed cult classic. It's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia/Apocalypse Now/Scarface/The Shining/Assassination of Jesse James all over again. A complex, ambitious and misunderstood genre masterpiece. Too literary, too nihilistic and too ugly in the best artistic way possible to be appreciated by non-cinephiles. Looking forward to Exodus.

  • Annie | February 28, 2014 6:51 PMReply

    The theatrical cut of The Counselor, one of my favorite films of the past decade, was underrated by critics (all but a few) and audiences. I'm enjoying the special features of my recently purchased blu-ray, but I didn't need those to know that this is indeed an essential movie.

  • Rob | February 28, 2014 6:26 PMReply

    I'd be curious to know what the author's take on the theatrical cut was previous to this blu-ray viewing--since he sounds way more forgiving to the film from the outset. Is this actually a case of "the Director's Cut makes all the difference" and the movie moves from execrable to essential? Or was he already in the deluded camp praising the theatrical cut as "underrated" and is now merely using this Director's Cut as a reinforcement of that misjudgment?

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