Everyone here at JSO was excited at the announcement that Jim Sturgess would play Keith Talent in the screen adaptation of London Fields. We had never seen Jim portray a character anything like this, and we were looking forward to the change. Filming took place September through October of 2013. The cast also included Theo James and Amber Heard, who both have strong online fan communities. After a while, everyone began to wonder what was going on with this film. Other than some production design images and one newspaper article, nothing was made available to the public. Film festivals came and went. Finally, earlier this year, someone involved with the film mentioned it had been submitted to Cannes. When the film wasn’t scheduled, panic set in. Thankfully, the film was included in the last titles scheduled for the Toronto International Film Festival. Unfortunately, the director and cast members were not included on the festival ‘guest list’ - meaning they were not expected to be there for a red carpet gala at the premiere. Everyone sensed that something was wrong. On September 15th, we found out exactly how wrong things were…..
Jim Sturgess doesn’t hold back as sleazy taxi driver and darts player Keith Talent. He gives a barnstorming performance that leaves over-the-top as an inadequate description. His greasy hair, swaggering manner, tattoed torso and permanently gurning, grimacing face make for a totally repellent figure. Sturgess plays it to the hilt from a triumphal Gene Kelly dance in the rain to a wardrobe of capes and leopard prints that lend him the appearance of Elvis Presley, if the King had dressed in the dark. It is an admirable force of nature display of acting technique but it is still an exhausting business spending time in this character’s company. - Screendaily
The New York Times reports on the ‘creative rift’ between the director Mathew Cullen who filed suit for $1 million against the producers Christopher Hanley and Jordan Gertner. The article begins by wondering if anyone would even turn up for a premiere….
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.
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.
Late Tuesday, Mr. Cullen sued Mr. Hanley in Los Angeles County Superior Court. According to the complaint, Mr. Hanley and his associates “secretly prepared their own version of the film,” which includes elements never discussed, including “incendiary imagery evoking 9/11 jumpers edited against pornography.” Among other remedies, the suit requests that a judge intervene to determine the degree to which Mr. Cullen’s name can be used in connection with the film, if at all.
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 edited one version of the film, while Mr. Hanley edited another, with actors on call to provide dialogue in postproduction for both.
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.”
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.
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, 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 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.
Deadline provided further details from Mathew Cullen’s claim, and provided a link to the complete document. Highlights include:
None of the revisionary elements that Defendants have interjected into the film appear anywhere in the script. Nor do they have any place in the film, at least not the one that Plaintiffs were asked to direct….No cast or crew member signed up for this, nor did Plaintiffs. But Defendants insist upon doing this, and more, in the names of Plaintiffs and others, notwithstanding their objections to the theft of their identities and the false, distorted and perverted associations that Defendants are imposing upon them.
As principal photography progressed, it became increasingly apparent that Defendants were unable or unwilling to fund the production of the film as they had represented to Cullen. This caused significant disruption and interference with the filming. Among other things, actors and crew were not paid, leading some to quit or walk off the set.
No cast or crew member signed up for this…
To make matters worse, [Producers] Hanley and Gertner permitted the screenwriter, Roberta Hanley, to substantially interfere with production of the film. Although Gertner repeatedly promised to fix the problem, neither he nor Hanley did anything to stop the interference with the production. Eventually, Cullen attempted to ban Ms. Hanley from the set in an effort to stop her interference with the production, but she managed to keep reappearing and disrupting the production.
In creating their own version of the film, Defendants have interjected scenes and footage that are highly offensive and neither appear in the script nor are part of the film that Cullen was asked to direct. Cullen has objected to any use of Defendant’s version of the film, as have several cast members and others. Despite these objections, Defendants are currently marketing and promoting their version of the film over the Internet and elsewhere, including at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival, as a film directed by Mathew Cullen. None of the incendiary images or offensive material that Defendants have interjected in the flim are properly attributable to the directorial services of Cullen, nor does he wish to be identified or associated with any such material.
We have recently learned of a legal matter that has arisen between the director and the producers of the film ‘London Fields’. 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 Sept. 18, we feel it is only appropriate that we remove this film from the festival lineup. We are hopeful that this matter will be resolved positively and that audiences will have the opportunity to see the film.
Chris & Roberta Hanley Vs. Director Mathew Cullen
The producers respond attempting the spin the canceled screenings as being due to ‘provocative’ content. More from The Hollywood Reporter:
Hours after the festival announced it was pulling the film, the producers fired back. “We have always loved launching our films here, but feel that in this particular case there has been an ill-considered decision made against our rights. It’s the first time we have ever heard of a festival removing a movie from the festival due to it’s imagery being deemed too provocative,” they said in a statement.
Hanley and Gertner also labeled Cullen’s lawsuit a “publicity stunt.” Continuing, they said the legal action “violates the arbitration provisions of his own guild, the DGA. Sadly, Mathew can’t deal with the fact that he does not control the final cut of the movie. He was given two deadlines to deliver a ‘director’s cut’ and missed both deadlines. His guild has rules for withdrawing his name from the picture and he missed those deadlines. The production company will vigorously oppose the lawsuit.”