It all seemed so good on paper. Late last fall, Arista Records, Sarah McLachlan’s management, and McLachlan herself all agreed that Floria Sigismondi — the director whose magnificently creepy Marilyn Manson videos (“The Beautiful People,” “Tourniquet”) earned her an MTV Video Music Awards nomination in 1997, as well as a place on many record companies’ first-call lists — would be just the ticket to shoot the video for McLachlan’s new single, “Sweet Surrender.” The plan was to put a little spunk into McLachlan’s famously dull clips. Now, scarcely three months later and with the clip in rotation on MTV, Sigismondi has yanked her name from the credits, replacing it with “Allen Smithee,” the alias of aggrieved directors everywhere.
Sigismondi’s original shooting script for “Sweet Surrender” was exactly the kind of edgy stuff she does so well, calling for McLachlan to suddenly encounter her own doppelganger in the form of a body in the road while she drives through a wooded nightscape. In the final version of “Sweet Surrender,” the body-in-the-road scenario has been distorted at best, and made incomprehensible at worst, by a series of glam close-ups of McLachlan singing for the camera. Although Arista is doing its best to deny the whole thing (“Nothing happened,” a company spokesperson says flatly), McLachlan publicist Kim Hardy says the singer balked when Sigismondi’s edit revealed a shortage of performance shots. “Sarah didn’t like the overall feel,” says Hardy. “It was darker than anything she’s ever done. It should be the artist’s video.” Although Sigismondi declined to be interviewed, a source claims that Arista, which footed the bill, began cutting its own version without the director’s knowledge. After discovering this, she walked out before completing her own cut.
The moral of the story? Sigismondi should stick with upstanding types like Marilyn Manson.