Weekend Binge: Like Kangana Ranaut’s Simran, 5 films that were ‘stolen’ by powerful stars
After the seemingly never-ending series of allegations levelled against, and by, Kangana Ranaut about her upcoming film, Simran, let’s take a look at 5 other films whose directors - like Hansal Mehta - were allegedly rendered useless on set.weekend binge Updated: Sep 16, 2017 09:26 IST
Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
Kangana Ranaut’s recent antics, aside from providing supremely entertaining fodder for gossip, have proven that even her most poorly thought out statements come loaded with material just pleading to be unpacked. Before long, it’ll be time to let her rest - Simran’s out, and basic logic would suggest that her statements should terminate any moment now. But until then, let’s continue our (over) analysis of her words.
In particular, we’ll be talking about her (alleged) statements against director Hansal Mehta (revealed by Huffington Post India), and the rumblings of her having taken over his responsibilities when things became unmanageable between them.
Even the briefest glance at his filmography suggests that Mehta is some sort of maverick - Aligarh, Shahid, CityLights are all films of tremendous, even rare, quality - but in the eyes of Kangana, the man behind them is a ‘spineless coward’ who ran away because of ‘gender bias issues’. Allegedly, of course.
But we’re going to be playing it fast and loose with facts anyway this week. We’ll be relying instead on less credible (but infinitely more wonderful) sources: Legends handed down over generations, telling statements made decades after the fact, and rumours. Plump, pulpy rumours. You can never get enough of them.
This week, we’ll talk about five films that, like Simran, were rumoured to have been ‘usurped’ by others.
This one is the most recent behind-the-scenes story to come to light. While it was always one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood - much like how Tony Gilroy directed a significant portion of Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - that George Cosmatos was hired mostly as a puppet who could sit on the director’s chair while star Kurt Russell called the shots.
Incidentally, Cosmatos himself was brought on with only a week of prep after original director Kevin Jarre clashed with Russell and was chucked out shortly after production began. A TrueWest magazine article quotes Russell as saying, “I’m going to give you (Cosmatos) a shot list every night, and that’s what’s going to be.”
Russell explained the eventful production in one sentence: “I backed the director; the director got fired, so we brought in a guy to be a ghost director. They wanted me to take over the movie. I said, ‘I’ll do it, but I don’t want to put my name on it. I don’t want to be the guy.’”
More recently, actor Val Kilmer, who played Doc Holliday in the film, wrote these definitive words on his blog: “Kurt is solely responsible for Tombstone’s success, no question.”
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
There’s a reason behind why George Cosmatos was brought in as stand-in director on Tombstone in the first place. It’s because years earlier, he performed a similar role on Rambo II. Kurt Russell and Rambo star, Sylvester Stallone, worked together on Tango & Cash (which also went through a revolving door of directors), and when Russell put in a call to his old friend to help him sort out the Tombstone issue, he suggested Cosmatos.
“I got him from Sly Stallone - called up Sly, said ‘I need a guy.’ Sly did the same thing with Rambo 2 with George,” he said, according to a post on an IGN message board.
Rambo II isn’t the only time Stallone has been rumoured to have taken over as director on one of his films. In fact, it is said that he makes it a point to pick only those films on which he is the biggest name, and demands directors who can be pushed around during production without much resistance, a trend that has suspiciously continued right up to the latest Expendables movies.
Little was written about the backroom politics that happened behind-the-scenes of Poltergeist when its credited director, Tobe Hooper, passed away in August. But for the longest time, its authorship has remained as foggy as the static on the haunted TV at its centre. Steven Spielberg, who was officially credited as producer and writer, is said to be the man who ghost directed the horror picture.
A Los Angeles Times set report from the time noted that Spielberg’s involvement seemed disproportionate to Hooper’s. One of the film’s stars, the late Zelda Rubinstein, told Ain’t it Cool, “I only worked six days on the film and Steven was there. Tobe set up the shots and Steven made the adjustments.”
Spielberg himself addressed the issue in an open letter published in the Hollywood Reporter. “Tobe isn’t... a take-charge sort of guy. If a question was asked and an answer wasn’t immediately forthcoming, I’d jump in and say what we could do. Tobe would nod agreement, and that become the process of collaboration,” he wrote.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
George Lucas’ propensity to stand over the shoulder of his directors isn’t a secret. Most recently, star Cuba Gooding Jr hinted on Graham Norton’s talk show that Lucas had all but removed director Anthony Hemingway from the World War II film, Red Tails. But if certain rumours are to be believed, he first did this three decades ago, on the third Star Wars movie too.
After directing the first Star Wars film to record-breaking success at the box office, Lucas handed over the reigns of the second film to Irvin Kershner (it was said that he was overwhelmed by the immensity of the project) - but Empire Strikes Back suffered problems of its own. So for the third film, he chose relative newcomer Richard Marquandt, whom he allegedly forced to shoot scenes exactly how he wanted them - with little room for Marquand’s personality.
Neither star Kevin Costner nor Kevin Reynolds are strangers to behind-the-scenes rejigs. Reynolds is rumoured to have performed some directing duties on his ‘friend’ Costner’s Oscar-winning 1990 blockbuster, Dances with Wolves, for which Costner won a Best Director Oscar.
But a few years later, when Costner was handed the biggest budget of any film up to that point ($172 million), and the freedom to pick the director, he chose the man who helped him out on Dances with Wolves, Kevin Reynolds.
After a tremendously troubled production - no one really knew how to handle the immense budget, and one of the sets sank (not the best thing that could’ve happened to a film called Waterworld) - Reynolds left the project with two weeks to go. It isn’t clear if he was fired or if he quit, but things got ugly between the two Kevins (don’t worry, they worked together again, in the 2008 miniseries Hatflields & McCoys). Costner took over the remaining shoot, and oversaw the film’s editing.