So while Lexi may be a brilliant director with a talent for inspiring artists to work hard for her vision, I think she is probably very protective of that vision and tends to butt heads with people who might threaten it. The 2002 Oscar-nominated film she directed before PWZ, “Johnny Flynton”, was a 20-minute independent film she had great control over. She co-wrote, directed, and executive produced 2005’s feature-length “Hooligans”, scrapping with her co-writer along the way. But with PWZ she was suddenly working with a big Hollywood studio that was undergoing change.
I believe that LGF greenlit PWZ, Lexi delivered, and LGF was mostly pleased with her April 1 screening, as Lexi reported in her blog — and then the “Midnight Meat Train” (MMT) business began affecting things. Peter Block, who was in charge when both MMT & PWZ were greenlit, left LGF in November 2007 and Joe Drake replaced him. Both MMT and PWZ are bloody, violent, hard-R films based on properties with existing NICHE audiences. Given how Drake shuffled around MMT’s release date and then “dumped” it into only 100 backwater dollar theaters with plans for a quick DVD release, I can imagine producer Gale Anne Hurd became concerned and wanted to save PWZ from MMT’s fate, so she brought in the Hulk (2008) editors to make Lexi’s cut more mainstream, as reported by FilmSchoolRejects’ source. I believe the UGO rumor that LGF clashed with Lexi over her publishing unapproved publicity materials to her blog. I believe the FilmSchoolRejects rumor that Lexi’s first trailer cut wasn’t liked by LGF, so I’m thinking they cut a new one and released that in early June, since Lexi’s blog made a point of mentioning she was surprised by it, alarming some that all may not be well. LGF did sack Lexi’s chosen composer (Christopher Franke, who had scored both “Johnny Flynton” and “Hooligans”; Charlie Clouser was briefly reported to have come on board, then Michael Wandmacher). [Considering what Lionsgate did to Midnight Meat Train I can understand some alarm on Gale Anne Hurd’s part. – Vic]
I suspect Lexi was more than simply frustrated by LGF’s tightening control over post-production. She had 6 months to prepare for July’s Comic-Con, the US’s #1 comic book film promotion event, so she would have had to be EXTREMELY pissed off to schedule her honeymoon during it. All of this is consistent with the FilmSchoolRejects and UGO rumors, which agree with each other that Lexi was unusually difficult and unpredictable for a Hollywood director, and that LGF limited her post-production involvement (but did not fire her). FilmSchoolRejects’ source also later called bulls*** on LatinoReview’s PG-13 rating rumor and confirmed the film will remain rated-R, which cinematographer Steve Gainer also later confirmed.
So PWZ’s July 24 2008 Comic-Con panel was conspicuously missing the film’s own director, and Gale announced Lexi was on her honeymoon. Then “frustrated” long-time LGF insider “Jigsaw” contacted AICN a day later to say Lexi wasn’t on her honeymoon — she was FIRED along with her composer and couldn’t talk because of a “non-disclosure clause”. He was probably (misguidedly?) trying to pressure LGF to restore Lexi’s involvement and save PWZ from a crap hard-rock soundtrack. [Which was the background music for the most recent restricted trailer. – Vic] I think Lexi took advantage of the controversy to let her feelings be known when that very day she removed all mention of PWZ from her blog and replaced it with a picture of the see/hear/speak no evil monkeys. Surely she was aware of the rumor and the message that picture would send (“if I can’t speak, I’ll say it with a picture!”). I can’t imagine LGF demanded she remove all the good publicity she had generated for PWZ with her blog; she started it only after beginning work on PWZ and mentioned Lionsgate controlling what she could divulge. If Lionsgate asked her not to speak further on PWZ there, it would have been simple enough to not touch the archives and quietly comply in the future. Even if Lionsgate DID ask her to remove all mention of PWZ, it would have been easy for Lexi to replace it with a message like “Lionsgate wishes to control publicity about PWZ now and has asked me to remove everything related to it.” So there is perhaps truth to the FilmSchoolRejects rumor that Lexi is “childish” and “erratic” and UGO’s rumor that she was a “Jekyll/Hyde” sort who resented LGF’s “censorship”. [I think that Hollywood directors are starting to leverage the power of the online movie community to influence things in their direction. Jon Favreau dabbled in a bit of this with the stories that he had not been contacted to direct Iron Man 2 a couple of months ago. – Vic]
Because Marvel fans seem to live on the Internet, Lexi’s blog worked wonders in garnering their support. I can sympathize with her frustration with LGF, but her unprofessional blog stunt fanned a s***storm that eventually only served to torpedo PWZ’s image and, oddly enough, stroke Lexi’s ego — Punisher fansites lit up with “Bring Lexi Back” campaigns including a petition and a devoted website (GPA’s pwztruth), the latter attacking Gale Anne Hurd as a no-talent butcher of Lexi’s film. Quite honestly all of this is futile, since Lexi’s further involvement is self-limited because she’s already working on a new project per her own blog! It’s the very rare director who gets final cut anyway. [I commented here on the site that any attacks on Hurd where no doubt COMPLETELY unjustified. – Vic]
Regardless of Lexi’s further involvement, I believe Lionsgate is doing its best to deliver a compromise that will please both hardcore Punisher fans and general action fans; the shooting script was good; Lexi’s vision was strong and her footage looks great; it’s still a bloody violent hard-R (verified publicly by Steve); and it’s got a composed score as the film deserves and not a thrashing hard-rock soundtrack (verified privately by Gale). [The soundtrack news is certainly good! When I heard the music layered over that last trailer I almost decided right there I wouldn’t even bother seeing the film. – Vic]
I will say that with Lexi’s blog now silent on PWZ, LGF needs to get correct information out and turn around the damage that was done. The bottom line: if Punisher fans can get past the misperceptions and rumors, they’ve still got plenty of reason to look forward to PWZ. [Agree completely. Why isn’t Lionsgate doing “official” damage control? – Vic]
So that’s my take. Hope it helps, and share as you like.
Again, from Nomad:
This may make things a bit more clear if you’ve any question. Just note who contacted whom and that may clarify what their motivations were. Here’s a complete timeline: