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

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist February 28, 2014 at 5:21PM

When "The Counselor" was released last fall, it was an intriguing conundrum: how had Ridley Scott, the one-time bad boy auteur behind "Blade Runner" and "Alien," taken the first original screenplay by legendary American author Cormac McCarthy (of "No Country for Old Men" and "The Road" fame), and turned in something so vacant and bizarre? We puzzled over this at the time, both in our review and in comparing the final version to the lengthier, filthier, more philosophically-minded screenplay. With the recent release of the Blu-ray, not only do we get a more satisfying cut of the movie, but its accompanying commentary provides a shockingly honest and insightful glimpse into who Scott is as a filmmaker today.
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The Shoot

Counselor

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. 

This article is related to: The Counselor, Ridley Scott, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt


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