London Fields’ Premiere in Toronto Troubled by Creative Rift By MICHAEL CIEPLYSEPT. 15, 2015
TORONTO — It has not been hard to spot Johnny Deppat the giant film festival here. Monday night, he walked the red carpet with his wife, Amber Heard, to celebrate a showing of his movie “Black Mass.” Two days earlier, it was Mr. Depp on Ms. Heard’s arm, at a screening of “The Danish Girl,” of which she is a star.
But will they show up on Friday, when it comes time to introduce “London Fields,” in which both have roles? Even their producer doesn’t know.
Based on a noir novel by Martin Amis, “London Fields,” set for its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, has become the center of an unusually fierce, behind-the-scenes dispute over both the control and content of the movie.
Whether any of the film’s biggest stars — Mr. Depp, Ms. Heard, Billy Bob Thornton and Jim Sturgess — will appear to support it on Friday is an open question, as festival organizers nervously wait to find out.
None have publicly declared a boycott. But all four have written letters to their producers, objecting to a provocative cut of the movie — its narrative is now laced with violent imagery in what might be dreams, or flashes both back and forward — that was overseen not by its credited director, Mathew Cullen, but by one of those producers, Chris Hanley.
Some of the actors have considered being elsewhere when the movie has its premiere on Friday, according to people with knowledge of their thinking.
Mr. Cullen certainly will not be on hand, according to these people briefed on his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity. For months Mr. Cullen and his supporters have been contending that Mr. Hanley turned “London Fields” into a sometimes unrecognizable, avant-garde experiment that violates the spirit of the project.
Filmmaker conflicts with producers and studios are hardly new. For years, the Directors Guild of America assigned an humorously anonymous “Alan Smithee” credit to troubled films like “Let’s Get Harry,” actually directed by Stuart Rosenberg, or “Solar Crisis,” from Richard Sarafian.
The current contest pits a new director against a seasoned producer with a penchant for controversy.
To date, Mr. Cullen, for whom “London Fields” is a first feature, has been recognized principally for his commercials, video work and a business association with Guillermo del Toro in their Mirada Studios.
Mr. Hanley, who helped produce the sassy hit “Spring Breakers,” is by contrast a prolific indie filmmaker who often pushes the edges. His “American Psycho,” released in 2000, cast Christian Bale as an investment banker with a psychotic and homicidal alter-ego.
Their conflict over “London Fields’’ has set up a potentially new embarrassment for Toronto programmers.
In an emailed statement on Monday, the festival’s artistic director, Cameron Bailey, gingerly acknowledged the dispute. “We’re aware that the team that made the film is coming to agreement, and we’re looking forward to launching it,” Mr. Bailey said.
Mr. Hanley, who also communicated by email, was more upbeat.
“We’re very proud of the work the director did,” he wrote, noting that filmmakers as accomplished as David Cronenberg and Michael Winterbottom had unsuccessfully struggled with screen versions of Mr. Amis’s complicated, pre-apocalyptic crime thriller.
Mr. Hanley said he did not know whether the actors would appear, but noted that Mr. Thornton and Ms. Heard had contractual commitments to support the film.
Mr. Cullen, he said, had failed to deliver his version of the film on deadline, and continues to work on a version the “producers have not seen.” A person briefed on Mr. Cullen’s stance said the director had never been paid, and for a time paused to seek other work. Mr. Hanley said Mr. Cullen had “been fully compensated according to the terms of his agreement.”
Through a representative, Mr. Cullen declined to comment. Representatives of Mr. Depp, Ms. Heard and Mr. Sturgess did not respond to queries, and a representative for Mr. Thornton did not comment.
Beyond the awkwardness of presenting a festival film that has been disavowed by its director, the dispute clouds a potentially prominent, star-laden project — Creative Artists Agency and IM Global are handling rights to “London Fields” — in a Toronto sales market that is still searching for bright spots.
Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky,” starring Helen Mirren, was sold to the indie distributor Bleecker Street Films, and Fox Searchlight Pictures was among those eyeing Rob Reiner’s dramedy “Being Charlie” at a Monday night premiere.
At an early press and industry screening Tuesday morning, “London Fields” — whether more Mr. Hanley’s, or Mr. Cullen’s — proved to be a sexy love quadrangle centered on the themes of clairvoyance and the decay of a London in an undefined crisis. (Mr. Hanley’s wife, Roberta Hanley, wrote the script.)
Decidedly nonlinear in its narrative approach, the characters, including a failed novelist played by Mr. Thornton, weave their lives in and out of literary works both past and in progress. In its present form, the narrative is intercut with images of a predatory drone, nuclear blasts, a person tumbling from a World Trade Center tower, and what appears to be a gathering in Mecca.
Some of those moments were said to have outraged Mr. Cullen, according to people briefed on his response, and he explored taking his name off the film. But he found that he had missed his opportunity to do so under complicated rules enforced by the Directors Guild of America.
Jovan Ajder, a sound mixer who worked on “London Fields,” speaking by telephone from London, said Mr. Hanley’s version of the movie was “radically different” from the more straightforward tale created by Mr. Cullen.
“It was certainly more puzzling and confusing,” Mr. Ajder said. Even more puzzling, he said, was a production process in which Mr. Cullen edited one version of the film, while Mr. Hanley edited another, with actors on call to provide dialogue in postproduction for both. At one point, Mr. Thornton’s distinctive voice was to be supplied by a double.
By May of this year, the actors were largely united in an unusual appeal for the restoration of Mr. Cullen’s cut (though Ms. Heard urged a merger of the versions, Mr. Hanley said). Mr. Depp, who had accepted a small role as a gesture toward his wife — he shows up in derby and goggles, looking like a character from “A Clockwork Orange” — was by then voicing wariness about any attempt to use him in an effort to market the movie, people briefed on the situation said.
The infighting disrupted a postproduction process that was originally supposed to be completed in time for last year’s Toronto festival, then for the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
Mr. Ajder was left to puzzle over a creative collision more severe than he had seen on any of the dozens of films on his résumé. “It was entirely rare, unique,” he said.
But Mr. Hanley, in a Monday email, described things differently, portraying them as a familiar part of the production process.
“I have been through creative battles with every film we have made with every director,” he said.
“Who wants to be normal when you can be unique?” Helena Bonham Carter
Wow, sounds like kind of a mess, and a nightmare situation for a first time director. Also not great for the actors trying to distance themselves from Hanley's version. But the movie sounds intriguing to me, in either form I suppose, and I'd like to see what Johnny did. Even if the film becomes one of those "Alan Smithees", it would be nice to be able to see some version of it.
"I feel I am good sitting on a beach with a breeze going by, the waves hitting the beach." "I've got a lot of Barbies in storage..." "The Mad Hatter is the Mad Hatter. What am I going to do, play him like Lee Majors?"
jruoss wrote:Wow, sounds like kind of a mess, and a nightmare situation for a first time director. Also not great for the actors trying to distance themselves from Hanley's version. But the movie sounds intriguing to me, in either form I suppose, and I'd like to see what Johnny did. Even if the film becomes one of those "Alan Smithees", it would be nice to be able to see some version of it.
I agree. Sounds like a mess. My mind is not working right now, but wasn't there another Johnny movie where the producer made changes after the director finished and in the minds of people ruined the film?
TIFF: 'London Fields' Pulled From Lineup Over Legal Dispute
by Etan Vlessing 9/17/2015 9:31am PDT
The movie adaptation of Martin Amis' novel, whose stars include Johnny Depp and Billy Bob Thornton, has been yanked from the schedule.
The Toronto Film Festival has yanked the film adaptation of Martin Amis' London Fields from its schedule over a legal dispute.
"We have recently learned of a legal matter that has arisen between the director and the producers of the film London Fields," the festival said in a statement Thursday.
"We have worked to make our festival a public showcase for creative expression through the moving image, however with uncertainty surrounding the creative vision of the version of the film scheduled to be screened on September 18th, we feel it is only appropriate that we remove this film from the festival lineup," TIFF added.
The move follows London Fields director Mathew Cullin on Tuesday bringing a lawsuit against the film's producers, Chris Hanley (Spring Breakers, American Psycho) and Jordan Gertner, alleging fraudulent assurances over whether he would creative control of the project and funding for the film. Withdrawing the film also comes as the film's producers were gearing up to market London Fields at the Toronto festival.
In the lawsuit, Cullin insists he was assured by Gertner that he would receive creative freedom and financial support. "As principal photography progressed, it became increasingly apparent that Defendants were unable or unwilling to fund the project as they had represented to Cullin," the complaint (read here) said.
The impacted screenings include a Friday night bow in Toronto at the Princess of Wales Theater and additional plays on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. "We are hopeful that this matter will be resolved positively, and that audiences will have an an opportunity to see this film," the festival added in a statement.
The noir crime thriller is based on Martin Amis' 1989 novel of the same name. Set in a bleak 1999 London, the story revolves around a promiscuous psychic (Amber Heard) who meets her fate as foretold by her visions by going to a seedy London pub.
Cullin, best known for his Katy Perry "California Gurls" music video, is making his feature film debut with London Fields. Already before the film was yanked from the Toronto lineup, there were concerns that the director and the film's stars Billy Bob Thorton, Cara Delevingne and Theo James would show up.
Johnny Depp, who is married to Heard, also makes an appearance in the film and has been on hand for two TIFF premieres this week: his film Black Mass and her film The Danish Girl. Hanley's wife, Roberta Hanley, wrote the screenplay with Amis.
Despite a lawsuit emerging on Tuesday, London Fields was still able to secure a U.S. distribution deal on Wednesday. Lionsgate and Grindstone acquired the title and plan a theatrical release through Lionsgate Premiere.
“Who wants to be normal when you can be unique?” Helena Bonham Carter
London Fields had an all star cast including Cara Delevingne, so how did it become a disaster movie? With a cast including Johnny Depp and Cara D, the film of Martin Amis’s seminal novel looked set to be a cult hit — then it sank amid chaos and acrimony. Susannah Butter unravels a disaster movie
Susannah Butter Evening Standard Friday 2 October 2015 11:13 BST
The film adaptation of Martin Amis’s novel London Fields had all the ingredients of a hit for the capital. Hype began to build two years ago when Cara Delevingne, Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and Billy Bob Thornton were spotted filming in Brixton Market and Crystal Palace. Delevingne dropped hints about her latest project and was seen in a dreadlocks wig, piquing interest about her role.
Rolling Stone magazine billed it as “a must-see movie” and author Martin Amis even agreed to a cameo, playing a darts promoter. The budget was $8 million, which is modest for Hollywood, but that gave it indie edge.
However, the film’s planned September 18 release date came and went with no film. Londoners expressed bemusement on social media but the cast have maintained a dignified silence. All that can be seen of the film is a short clip of Amber Heard slinking down a cobbled street, uploaded to londonfieldsmovie.com last week.
Dominic Patten, legal editor of entertainment website Deadline, says: “The cast excited people but the drama of the film has become overshadowed by offscreen fiascos.” So what happened to London Fields?
Critics sensed that something was amiss at the Toronto Film Festival (TFF) last month when the film was pulled from the schedule, a day before its premiere. Patten was there. He says: “What is interesting about London Fields is that its collapse happened in a very public forum. There was a small screening at 8.30am on September 15 for people in the industry and three more were planned. The day before the second screening, TFF announced it was dropping the film. Doing that is a pretty big pain for them. There was no replacement scheduled and it will have lost them some money in refunding people for that first screening.”
It happened because a few hours after that industry screening London Fields’ director filed a lawsuit against its producers, suing them for $1 million. Director Matthew Cullen alleges that the producers made “fraudulent efforts” to revise the movie without his knowledge, adding offensive imagery about the September 11 terrorist attacks, and that they owe him money.
Christopher Hanley and Jorden Gertner, who deny the claims, responded on Twitter and with a statement saying they were “greatly disappointed” and “feel that in this particular case there has been an ill-considered decision made against our rights”.
London Fields is a challenging undertaking, even for experienced film-makers. Written in 1989 and set in 1999 as the world hurtles to a millennial demise, it is narrated by Samson Young, a terminally ill American writer in London (played by Billy Bob Thornton). He meets clairvoyant femme fatale Nicola Six (Amber Heard), who is arranging her own murder to avoid turning 35 because that is undesirably old. David Cronenberg attempted an adaptation in 2001 but had to admit defeat.
This version was the creation of a group of small American studios. Co-producer Hanley’s previous work includes dark teen flick Spring Breakers, and he took a punt on having a first-time director. Cullen is a Grammy award-winning music video director who has worked with Katy Perry, Adele and The Black Eyed Peas but London Fields was his first feature film. He cites Guillermo del Toro, the Pacific Rim director, as his mentor.
It seems that it didn’t take long for the cracks to show on set. A member of the crew, who has also asked to remain anonymous, says that “it was a terrible job from the beginning, with long days, money problems and clashes between the director and producers”. Another added: “We realised quickly that there were some issues but thought it was a case of working with a first-time director — usually they get through it.”
According to a source who was on set, Cullen appeared out of his depth. He was “clearly inexperienced”. “He didn’t have the ability to tell the actors and crew exactly what he wanted and at the same time production were cutting corners.”
Meanwhile, Hanley has “a producer’s reputation”, says Patten. “By that I mean there are issues but he has got stuff done and his name has been attached to some hits.”
David Guy Levy, a producer/director who worked on the film until falling out with Hanley, has said: “From what I’ve heard through other people on the film, basically Chris shut out everybody but himself and his wife. Chris is someone who isn’t known for respecting the director’s vision much.”
In legal documents, Cullen claims that Hanley’s wife, Roberta, the co-scriptwriter, “substantially interfered” in the film and its script.
Financial limitations apparently exacerbated the tensions. The actors were put up at the high-end Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, where prices for rooms start at £138 a night, but Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the protagonist Samson Young, has said: “We didn’t have enough money or enough time. It should have been a $35 million movie and instead it’s, whatever, an $8 million or $10 million movie. I loved the British crew. They became very good friends. But it was the hardest movie I ever did in terms of the conditions and schedule. As we say over here, we were squeezing 10lb of s**t into a 5lb bag.”
One crew member says he was not paid until three months after they wrapped. “I heard a story that a producer sold one of his Picasso paintings at the end of the job to pay for the crew. The catering was terrible and production kept trying to cut corners. If a lesson can be learned from this film it is if you don’t have the money or means to do an ambitious project, don’t do it. We need more British-made stories but this shows you can’t do it without a budget.”
The actors didn’t let the strain show. Cara Delevingne plays Kat Talent, whose husband Keith (Jim Sturgess) is a small-time criminal and aspiring professional darts player. She has said Thornton was generous with his time “I was terrified and he saw that. But he said, ‘As an actor I can spot straight away when someone can act, and you can act’.”
Ancuta Breaban of BMA artists, who has a small role, adds: “It was a great experience with a great cast. Billy Bob Thornton is very nice — we had a laugh and kept the energy up. It is a shame that the film has not been shown here as everyone who took part would like to see it.” Martin Amis is remaining positive. He says that Amber Heard has a “commanding” screen presence.
The Standard’s film critic David Sexton, who saw the first screening, disagrees. He says: “It’s like a music video, cretinously portenteous, in the worst possible taste. The soft-porny writhings of Nicola, whose terminal birthday has been reduced here to her 30th, are intercut with documentary footage of nuclear explosions, cancerous cell division and the Hajj.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s review says the film was a “complete botch” and “presents the most staggering gulf in quality between a novel and a film adaptation in recent memory”.
However, there is a chance that the film will be saved. The day after it was pulled Lionsgate/Grindstone bought London Fields for a low seven-figure sum. The company specialises in acquired films. Patten says, “the jury is out on whether that means it will be saved. Lionsgate/Grindstone clearly bought it because they want to release it but it might be several years before they can.”
He doesn’t think the cast will be affected: “I don’t think the furore around the film is going to cause a moment’s stress for Johnny Depp, Cara Delevingne and the other stars. They are all extremely well-regarded and have good careers. I’ve seen much bigger stars have much bigger flops.”
Cullen is taking more of a risk. Patten continues: “These lawsuits can have a killing effect on careers to some degree. But then again you can have the worst reputation in town but if you show up with money or talent, people are going to work with you.”
For now, London Fields fans will have to be content with reading the novel and watching that lone online clip.
Hope it's ok to post this news here. It certainly is an interesting turn of events!
NOVEMBER 21, 2016 10:56am PT by Eriq Gardner Amber Heard Sued Over Alleged Conspiracy to Undermine 'London Fields'
In a $10 million lawsuit, the actress is alleged to have breached performance and promotional obligations. Amber Heard is the latest to face court action over London Fields, a film based on Martin Amis' celebrated novel, once set to make a splash at the Toronto Film Festival only to be stuck in legal purgatory without a distributor. On Monday, the film's producers sued Heard, who stars in the picture as a promiscuous psychic about to be murdered.
More than a year ago, the debut of London Fields at Toronto prompted controversy with much of the film's talent refusing to show up in support. Mathew Cullen, the film's director, sued Christopher Hanley's Nicola Six Limited for fraud, claiming producers hijacked the final cut of the movie. Hanley struck back with counterclaims accusing Cullen of failing to deliver the film on budget and on time. Adding to the intrigue were news report how London Fields might have been a factor in Heard's divorce from Johnny Depp, who has a small role in the movie.
Now, Heard is facing claims of breaching contract and committing tortious interference. (The complaint also quickly nods to the film's supposed role in the Heard-Depp divorce.)
"While the inherent tension between actors and directors (on the one hand) and producers (on the other) is nothing new in Hollywood, the unauthorized and unlawful acts of Heard, Cullen, and others — most notably, their campaign to damage Plaintiff, the Picture, and the Picture's investors — are perhaps unprecedented," states the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. "Indeed, as a result of their misconduct, which continues to this day, the very promising Picture remains in limbo, hijacked and placed under a cloud by Heard, Cullen, and others."
According to the complaint, Heard disregarded contractual obligations by failing to render acting services in conformity with the shooting script and later by refusing to attend the Toronto premiere or engage in other promotional services. She's also charged with conspiring with Cullen to violate his contractual agreements.
Cullen has made it clear that he's unhappy with the producers' cut of the film, which according to his lawsuit, included "incendiary imagery evoking 9/11 jumpers edited against pornography."
The actors are clearly supporting Cullen, and the latest lawsuit against Heard discusses some of the background drama on London Fields, which has been cursed from inception in more ways than one.
For example, the suit against Heard discusses what happened in November, 2014, upon submission of the movie to the Sundance Film Festival.
"In an effort to intimidate Nicola Six, Heard falsely claimed to Nicola Six that she had not contractually agreed to allow the use of nudity in the Picture," states the complaint. "Heard also falsely claimed that she had not granted Nicola Six the right to the results and proceeds of her acting services in the Picture."
Producers say that various agreements provided such rights and allowances, and that objections to the contrary were part of a conspiracy to undermine the film.
"As a result of Heard's refusal to comply with her contractual obligations — including her improper refusal to act in provocative scenes contained in the pre-approved script — key scenes in the script had to be removed and/or rewritten to accommodate Heard's behavior," continues the lawsuit.
Afterwards, Heard is alleged to have refused to participate in dialogue replacement, and by mid-2015, she and the film's other stars including Depp and Billy Bob Thornton are said to have forwarded their correspondence with Hanley to Amis. According to the complaint, "This act, along with Heard's other disclosures of confidential information, was in violation of Heard's agreements with Nicola Six … in which she promised not to disclose confidential information regarding the Picture or Nicola Six."
The producer is represented by Mathew Rosengart, a former prosecutor now at Greenberg Traurig, who is seeking at least $10 million in compensatory damages.