McGinnis: Cry for “Wolf”: Will Scorsese’s latest be delayed for silly reasons?Written by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
You may not get to see one of the most anticipated movies of 2013 until 2014. And the reason has nothing to do with last-minute reshoots because the film sucks, sudden script changes or any of the myriad reasons that Hollywood has had for delaying high-profile flicks over the past few years.
No, in this case, the delay might be to reshape a potentially great movie purely for marketing considerations. Now, there’s a chance these choices are being made by the film’s creator — the best filmmaker of our time — in an effort to make the movie better. In that case, so be it. He’s earned the right to make that call. But if he’s making changes based upon what he thinks others want, or worse, if he’s being pressured to make such changes, then there’s a problem.
The movie is Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a memoir of success and scandal in the corporate banking world. Starring Scorsese’s current muse Leonardo DiCaprio and featuring performances from Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin and more, it was more or less assured that the film — scheduled for release on Nov. 15 — would be a major player in the end-of-year awards season.
Then a few weeks back, word began to trickle out that there might be a problem with the battle plan. Sources like The Hollywood Reporter began hinting that the film might not make its release date, and may indeed be pushed back into the new year, completely missing the Oscar window.
In recent weeks, reports have indicated that Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker have been working furiously to get the film finished by the end of November, which would allow distributor Paramount to release it on Christmas day. (This would scoot the planned Christmas release — Kenneth Branagh’s “Jack Ryan” reboot — back to 2014 instead.)
Why the delay? The primary reason, cited by tons of sources, is simply that the movie is too long. Scorsese is known for assembling initial cuts of his films that run far in excess of their final run time, and the preliminary version of “Wolf” is said to be at least three hours in length.
In a world where some of the most successful films of all time have scraped or exceeded that run time — “Titanic,” “Avatar” — the idea of “Wolf” being at that mark doesn’t seem like that big a deal, really. Some sources, though, claim the film actually runs even longer than that, which theoretically could be testing audiences’ patience and bladder control. Hence the desire to cut it down in advance of the wide release.
There may be another factor, however. The Hollywood Reporter and other outlets also speculate that the film — which, like the book that inspired it, contains some fairly graphic sex, drug use and more — may receive the dreaded NC-17 rating in its current form, which would be the kiss of death for “Wolf”‘s box office chances. If this is true, it’s yet another example of the glaring need for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to develop a rating that would indicate a film was only appropriate for adults without having the stigma of being pornographic.
When NC-17 was introduced in the mid-’90s, it was a tepid attempt to rebrand the “X” rating — which had long since been co-opted by nudie exploitation flicks — into something that might be acceptable by the mainstream. The first mainstream release to carry the NC-17 rating? “Showgirls.” And all the good intentions went right down the toilet and the rating was branded with the same stigma its predecessor had found. To this day, few movies that garner the rating will be given ad space.
Regardless of the reasons behind the delay, I hope whatever work Scorsese is doing on the film is genuinely of his own choosing and the choosing of his collaborators, and not being forced upon him by bean counters or the tendencies of a moralistic society. If any filmmaker has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to length or the ability to handle sensitive content, it’s the man whose vision brought us “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas,” “Taxi Driver,” “The Departed” and many more.
I want to see “The Wolf of Wall Street,” whenever it is released. I just hope it isn’t neutered in the meantime.
Tags: Avatar, GoodFellas, Jack Ryan, Jean Dujardin, Jonah Hill, Jordan Belfort, Kenneth Branagh, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Matthew McConaughey, Motion Picture Association of America, MPAA, NC-17, Raging Bull, Showgirls, Taxi Driver, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, Titanic