I was a fan of his writing and having noticed the long periods of absence between produced projects in his IMDB credits, asked him why his output was so minimal. He told me that the artistic freedom of the 1970s had become a corporate nightmare in the 1980s when, as a rewrite scribe, he would commonly get notes from executives to "dumb down" the material. The studio bosses at this time weren't filmmakers like the generation that preceded them. They were financiers: junk bondsmen appointed by stockholders who would just as soon invest in fudge as in film. In Leonard's estimation, these guys had about as much entitlement to critique writing as a cat had a need for pajamas. His interest in taking thankless writing assignments waned as his original pitches were routinely turned down. In actuality, he had remained quite busy though his resumé didn't reflect it. Many writers wind up pounding out numerous transitional drafts in the nebulous grey area between script inception and filmed realization. Most folks not glued to the trades just aren't aware of how much time is spent on projects that change direction, swap genre midstream or go nowhere. Development can swallow a decade or more of a writer, director, or producer's time as studios greenlight and cancel projects without shooting a single scene–with the biggest casualty often being originality.
|Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer & Michael Bay|
I'm not telling you anything new here. You've seen it in Easy Riders and Raging Bulls and the chronological follow-up, The Blockbuster Imperative. What drives me crazy is that so few of the theater-going public have learned anything from those films or from their own movie-hopping experience.
|Eligible in 16 award categories, nominated for 1, winner of 0|
Cloud Atlas was released on DVD and BluRay last week. It was a hundred million dollar, independently financed film faithfully adapted from a critically acclaimed novel featuring a cast of household names, directed by billionaire franchise creators and an arthouse god. It was an incredibly original story that tackled complicated themes in an entertaining way via powerhouse performances and stunning special effects and, of course, it flopped miserably. Apparently, the public has become accustomed to "dumbed-down" entertainment, because this was a thinking man's sci-fi adventure and audiences avoided it like the plague.
Of course the lack of studio support should become a case study in movie marketing failure for decades to come. Warner Brothers dropped the ball on this like they did with Iron Giant, My Dog Skip and A Little Princess. Because of the massive box office failure, Cloud Atlas has all the earmarks of becoming a legitimate cult classic, but the film's poor performance virtually insures that nobody will ever take a chance like this again. That is a pox on all of our houses, and all of you who didn't go see it on the big screen are to blame. Shame on you. It's because of you that we'll all be served Paranormal Activity Part Fuck You until the end of time. Thank you also for guaranteeing sequels to Silent Hill and Resident Evil and every other shitty video game adaptation that comes down the pike until the dead actually do rise and kill us all.
So... yes, this is a bit of an I Told You So. You screwed up by not supporting visionary filmmakers in a grand experiment, but you've got the chance to make up for it by buying the DVD, Bluray or Ultraviolet download. Add the film to your Netflix cue and request it on Red Box. When you finally do see it (and love it) post about it on facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr, and in your blog. Cloud Atlas finally will get it's due, but please do me a favor: don't claim that you saw it on the big screen because I saved my ticket stubs and I will absolutely call bullshit on you.