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The Reeler Blog

Factory Girl: The Legend Grows

In Sunday's New York Times, Charles Taylor delivered a fascinating look at the damaged legacy of Factory Girl, a smoldering saga of good intentions, bad timing, broken promises and outsized egos. But in previewing the film's more promising director's cut coming July 17 to DVD (continue reading to win a copy), Taylor pulls some interesting anecdotes from filmmaker George Hickenlooper, who blames the production's New Orleans-based money people for not supplying the cash required to shoot three essential scenes in New York:

Shooting began early last year in Shreveport. According to Mr. Hickenlooper, part of the movie had to be shot in New York, and LIFT [the studio that underwrote Factory Girl] had promised him that he could shoot there for a number of days. Those days never materialized, he said, leaving him with what was essentially an unfinished film.

Tres Bernhard, general counsel for LIFT, said there was never any deal to finance shooting on location in New York. And, he said, by the end of the Shreveport shoot “George did not deliver the movie on budget, on time, as scripted.”

Mr. Hickenlooper’s response reveals the bad blood that still lingers. “That’s untrue,” he said and pointed out that LIFT was under investigation. “I think that speaks for itself.” (As The Times-Picayune of New Orleans has reported, LIFT is under investigation by a federal grand jury for abusing the tax incentives Louisiana offers to movie production companies.) It was at this point, Mr. Hickenlooper said, that [producer Holly] Wiersma approached [Harvey] Weinstein, who saw the footage Mr. Hickenlooper had shot. Mr. Weinstein bought distribution rights in a deal that also ensured him final cut. But the filming essentially stalled over the next three months while, according to Mr. Hickenlooper, LIFT refused to finance the New York shooting. “They actually thought they were finished,” Mr. Weinstein said. ...

Mr. Hickenlooper acknowledged that he was initially fearful of Mr. Weinstein and said that as the pressure on both of them to deliver the film on time increased, so did the arguments. “You always know where you stand with Harvey,” he said. “It’s what great. It can be horrifying too.”

Got it. So how does this reconcile with what Hickenlooper told the gang at Fat Free Film in a podcast posted in March (and linked here on The Reeler soon after):

There are all kind of rumors that the movie was in trouble -- that we're doing reshoots. That's not the case. When we shot the film, we needed $8 million. I had to cut 15 pages out of the script, so what I did was a big gamble, but I cut out scenes that were essential to the movie; you couldn't finish the film without them. No one realized that until the end. Harvey Weinstein bought the film at Sundance, but he bought it based on the dailies. But he didn't know I had these three essential scenes that I had to shoot in New York, which I had cut out. And it was easy to cut out because I couldn't shoot them in Shreveport anyway. ... When I presented my director's cut, there were, like, these big "SCENE MISSING" cards. And Harvey was like, "Where are these scenes?" And I was like, "Well, we have to shoot them." And he flipped out for a day, but then he was fine.

Most of this jibes with Taylor's piece, but the spirit seems a little different. Am I wrong in deducing from Hickenlooper's earlier version of events that not only did he know LIFT wouldn't pay for the New York shoot, but also that Harvey knew he'd be on the hook for them after viewing Hickenlooper's incomplete film? Did he cut those 15 pages from the script before or after LIFT green-lit the Shreveport shoot? Doing so before would explain why LIFT "thought it was finished," in Harvey's words, not to mention why it would protest that “George did not deliver the movie on budget, on time, as scripted.”

So, um, what do you think? The first two commenters to help square away the madness (or add to the conspiracy -- hell, why not?) win free DVD's of Factory Girl: The Unrated Director's Cut, featuring commentary by Hickenlooper, more deleted scenes (not to be confused with "SCENE MISSING" cards, I presume), Sienna Miller audition tapes, a making-of featurette and more. Drop your two cents below and we'll be in touch!

Posted at July 9, 2007 12:43 PM

Comments (11)

There's no conspiracy here, just marketing. It probably went down something like this:

HICKENLOOPER: Say Harvey, I've gotta movie I want to make but I need $35 million.

HARVEY: Tell you what. I know some people at the Times. I'm going to get you an interview and you're going to tell them that Unrated DVD we're doing is your vision of the film.

HICKENLOOPER: isn't. I had to shred fifteen pages of script remember?

HARVEY: No. I remember buying a movie that I later found out was incomplete. Seems to me that you owe me something. Now I'm going to call up the Times and we're going to come up something nice.

HICKENLOOPER: You mean we're going to lie.

HARVEY: Remember, it's not a lie if you believe it. So do you want to make a picture or what?


HARVEY: My people will be in touch. Remember, sound sincere. And send me the script for your new picture.

The whole script.

Ultimately, the answer is that Hickenlooper weaseled his way to his final cut by any means necessary. Like any proper-minded independent filmmaker. He lied to everybody. Manipulated everybody. His only fault was in trying to complete it for year-end '06.

Now, of course, the fact that he had Anthony Pelicano's office bug Harvey Weinstein is rather inexcusable... but hell hath no fury like a director trying to finish his newest film, knowing that his best film is still unavailable on DVD.

That...and he just wanted to spend as much time around Sienna as Harvey could afford.

I wondered why it took so long to release this film. Personally I think Mr. Hickenlooper tried to dupe eveyone to get his way but whats a director to do? Sienna Miller was great in the film, doing a good Edie imperssion. Hopefully the directors cut will improve the film. Can't wait to hear those commentaries.

It's really not that hard, is it? Hickenlooper was being a bit more generous earlier in the year, when the film was still in release (theoretically, at least). But now that some time has passed, he doesn't feel too obligated to try and paint as rosy a picture as he can. Now he can just speak his mind. And, also, help establish his director's cut as the one to watch.

Also, I forgot to add-- Hickenlooper is a HUGE Orson Welles fan, and probably knows the value of a good retrospective troubled production myth better than anyone.

who cares? really...who cares?

It's a testament to Holly's selling skills. She's on fire. FACTORY GIRL came out withy scenes MISSING and that's why it failed? I don't get it.

For one, why release and UNFINISHED movie? Weinstein, from what I know of him, would gladly shill over a few bucks to reshoot scenes or add needed ones because it would allow him to get his hands all over the movie as he's been known to love doing.

Plus, wasn't he priming his Oscar chops to push Sienna Miller as a best actress candidate?

Granted, I'm not in a major market so I missed the film. I just figured it came out in select cities and flopped. But I also don't see what harvey or *anyone* for that matter would race to shove an unfinished movie into theaters. That part doesn't jive with Hickenlooper's comments.

If the movie's not that good, maybe the producer has a speaking role in the making-of featurette. I'll watch it all.

All this trouble and I still didn't win the DVD? But, I'm the only one who added something.

Am I reading this correctly? Holly Wiersma (no relation to self) sold Harvey Weinstein a movie she knew had missing scenes by showing him dailies and managed to keep him in the dark until he saw it?

There's a little bit of truth to everything above. I did my best under the circumstances. It was a rough ride I don't recommend for anyone. GH

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