South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho has an interesting story about how he once fooled Harvey Weinstein into keeping his version of Snowpiercer intact.
Before his spectacular fall from grace after a series of sexual harassment allegations that started the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, Weinstein was an ultra-powerful producer in Hollywood and notorious for getting his way with the filmmakers when it came to edits.
Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer was bought by The Weinstein Company and predictably, the producer, notoriously named ‘Harvey Scissorhands’ in Hollywood, wanted the director to cut 25 minutes out from the movie, reported Vulture.
“It was a doomed encounter. I’m someone who until that point had only ever released the ‘director’s cut’ of my films. I’ve never done an edit I didn’t want to do,” recalled the filmmaker, who has attracted a cult following with films such as Memories of Murder, Mother and Okja.
Joon-Ho, who is currently making waves with his new film Parasite, which won the coveted Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year, said the producer wanted “More action, more Chris Evans” in the movie, a sci-fi, dystopian take on class rebellion.
“Wow, you are a genius. Let’s cut out the dialogue, is how Weinstein responded when he watched the film for the first time with the director in Tribeca.
The director said cutting 25 minutes of the film felt like removing a major organ. But the director decided to fight for at least his favourite scene, which showed a train guard gut a fish in front of the rebels as a show of intimidation.
“Harvey hated it. Why fish? We need action!,” the director told the publication, imitating Weinstein.
“I had a headache in that moment: What do I do? So suddenly, I said, Harvey, this shot means something to me’.”
“‘Oh, Bong? What?,’ Weinstein said.
“It’s something personal. My father was a fisherman. I’m dedicating this shot to my father,” the director responded.
Weinstein immediately relented: You should have said something earlier, Bong! Family is the most important. You have the shot.
“I said, Thank you’. It was a fu**ing lie. My father was not a fisherman,” the director recalled.
The director said they danced around the edit for months. Weinstein screened his edited version to a test audience of about 250 in Paramus, New Jersey, at a giant multiplex and predictably the viewers gave the film low marks.
“On the inside, I was happy that the scores were bad. But Weinstein comes out and goes, Bong! Yeah, the score is very bad. Let’s cut out more.’
The whole thing was like a black comedy. If this was someone else’s movie and you were making a documentary of the situation, it would be really funny. Unfortunately, it was my movie,” the director said.
The news about their disagreement finally leaked to the press and the film’s stars rallied behind Joon-Ho.
Weinstein relented to go with the director’s version but as a punishment, he gave the film a limited release.
“Maybe for (Weinstein), it was some kind of punishment to a filmmaker who doesn’t do what he wants. But for me, we were all very happy.”