The people pushing Dazed and Confused wanted a controversy—and they got it, right on schedule. Just days before the ’70s period piece’s Sept. 24 opening, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) obligingly ruled the movie’s print and TV ads ”unsuitable” because of their drug references, forcing the distributor, Gramercy Pictures, to make revisions. The MPAA, which had already given Dazed an R rating, objected to the ads’ use of a magazine quote (”deliciously accurate in its portrayal of the generation that fell between LSD and R.E.M.”) and to the line, ”Finally, a movie for everyone who did inhale.”
”We don’t allow drugs or drug paraphernalia (in ads),” says MPAA spokeswoman Bethlyn Hand. ”And when you refer to ‘a movie for everyone,’ it has to be either G or PG.” Yet movie-house posters tagged with the puns ”The Film Everyone Will Be Toking About” and ”Have a Nice Daze” were not banned. ”We tried to be lenient,” says Hand.
Not that the distributors were looking for leniency. Two weeks before the MPAA ruling, Gramercy VP Steve Flynn, who conceived the campaign, was already high on strife. ”I hope we do get problems,” he told EW. ”I’m encouraging antidrug groups to speak up.”
So far only the MPAA and the media have taken Gramercy’s bait. ”Look at all the free publicity they’re getting,” says Hand. But director Linklater takes the long view—he doesn’t like the ruling or the ads. ”They were marketing it for dumb teenagers—but what are you gonna do?” he shrugs.
After a so-so opening weekend ($918,127, 13th place) the likely next step in the bad-publicity push: reports of theaters filling up with marijuana smoke once the lights are dimmed. Gramercy spokeswoman Claudia Gray is all ready with a disclaimer: ”We’re certainly not advocating drug use.”