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After 'The Canyons,' Strange Tale of 'The Jesuit'

Thompson on Hollywood By Paul Schrader | Thompson on Hollywood February 15, 2014 at 9:14PM

My strange tale. Five years ago I wrote an original script titled "The Jesuit" which I was set to direct starring Oscar Isaac when the financing entity, Maya, collapsed. It was meant to be a return to my action exploitation roots, i.e., "Rolling Thunder." I also wanted to make a Latin film.
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Paul Schrader
Paul Schrader

Five years ago I wrote an original script titled "The Jesuit" which I was set to direct starring Oscar Isaac when the financing entity, Maya, collapsed. It was meant to be a return to my action exploitation roots, i.e., "Rolling Thunder." I also wanted to make a Latin film. 

After a second film fell through, a Bret Easton Ellis original titled "Bait," Bret and I embarked on a fascinating DIY adventure which resulted in "The Canyons." While doing this I learned that the "Jesuit" producer Santiago Garcia Galvan had regained the script rights and wanted to go forward immediately. 

I told Santiago that I didn't think I could abandon "Canyons." I said that since I meant "The Jesuit" to be a Latin film, and I was the only Anglo involved, he should get a Mexican director. Santiago replied that he'd already given the script to Alfonso Pineda Ulloa, who wanted to do it. 

So that was that. They wanted me to rewrite the ending for budget reasons but I thought their new ending was wrong. Alfonso wanted to meet with me but I refused. Santiago wanted me to come to the set but I refused. Shrug it off, move on. 

Well, I saw an unfinished cut of the film two nights ago. I LOVED IT! It's better than it would have been if I'd directed it. It's a badass exploitation film with a black soul and shoot-from-the-hip style. I never really was an exploitation or action director. I appreciate the genre but I would not have been a good fit to direct them. 

If I'd directed "The Jesuit," it would have been too tasteful, too restrained, too mature. Alfonso did a great job. Jose Maria Yazpik, aka The Jesuit, is a totally cool, mean son-of-a-bitch and a movie star to boot. Even though there were elements that didn't make sense and things I would not have approved of, I was caught up in the film's exploitation gusto. I even watched it a second time. And enjoyed it just as much. Sometimes life surprises you.

This article is related to: Paul Schrader, News, Bret Easton Ellis, The Canyons


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.