Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Ned Benson, who made his feature directorial debut on The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, eleanrecalls his beleaguered editor Krissy Boden paraphrasing fellow editor Walter Murch that, “we write one film, we shoot one film, and we cut another film.” Murch was talking about the process of making a single film and not what Benson has done, which is to carve out three distinctly different versions of the same movie. The latest will play in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes.

When Benson unveils his film on the Croisette on May 17, it will be his second international festival and the third version to appear at a festival. At Toronto last fall where The Weinstein Company bought the film for around $3 million, Benson debuted two versions of the film that stars James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain as a married couple whose relationship disintegrates. One version, which they call Him, showed it from the husband’s vantage point, while a second film shown right after, Her, explored it from the perspective of the wife. The Cannes version, which Benson called Them,  will follow the more traditional form and clock in at two hours. All three versions will be released by TWC in some form this fall.

benson“Insane is probably the best way to describe all this,” Benson told me. “The idea of creating a third way to see this story, to have a two-hour relationship film or give the viewer the choice of seeing it in the three hour, two-part perspective is one of the most educational film experiences I’ve had in my life. And the outcome is mind-blowing, like hitting the lottery.”

This is just one of the Cannes films TWC is involved in with issues. The fest’s opening-night film, Grace Of Monaco, was pulled from an early 2014 release date because of disagreements the distributor had with director Olivier Dahan. TWC probably won’t make a decision regarding the release of that film until the new cut is seen at the festival, and the battle has become contentious. Distributors often nudge filmmakers to consider making cuts on films they acquire, hoping to reach the widest possible audience. Though a single film clearly has a better shot at a wide audience than two long separate versions telling the same story, Benson said he wasn’t pressured by TWC to come up with the third cut.

“At Toronto, it was this hanging question that lingered,” Benson said. “It wasn’t until this year that I saw with my editor and my producing partner Cassandra Kulukundis and then talked with Harvey Weinstein about it, and he gave me the opportunity to see if it an omnipotent version could function as its own film. We got in a room and created the film that will premiere in Cannes.” Read More »