Creative differences. It’s the politically correct phrase that Hollywood studios haul out every time a film’s director is suddenly replaced — and lately, it’s been getting quite a workout. In the last month, three high-profile projects — Twentieth Century Fox’s Sean Connery drama Entrapment, Fox’s Ravenous, which stars The Full Monty’s Robert Carlyle and L.A. Confidential’s Guy Pearce, and United Artists’ sci-fi thriller Supernova — all changed directors midstream. Were there differences? Definitely. Were they creative? Welllll…
Arrogance and outlandish behavior are not unusual in Tinseltown. But in February, one of the worst studio-versus-director battles in years came to a head on the horror-suspense film Ravenous, resulting in Fox 2000 president Laura Ziskin flying 6,087 miles to the Prague set to give director Milcho Manchevski (who made 1994’s Oscar-nominated Macedonian film, Before the Rain) his walking papers.
The dismissal capped months of turbulence that began last summer when Manchevski arrived in L.A. to discuss the project and asked Fox to rent him a convertible or luxury car; Fox said no and rented a different car. A few weeks later, Fox execs were surprised to learn that Manchevski had smashed up the front of his rent-a-car. A demand for payment on numerous outstanding parking tickets followed soon after.
In Prague, Manchevski quickly alienated crew members by telling them they could talk to him only during certain hours — at lunchtime and from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Production sources said that he also refused to have story and budget meetings with producer David Heyman and executive producer-line producer Tim Van Rellim.
One week before production, Manchevski surprised Fox with storyboards that would’ve added roughly two weeks to the shoot. Fox eventually agreed to another week of shooting — but on the first day of production, Manchevski refused to sign the budget or schedule, and a third of the day was lost as the parties tried to come to an agreement. (It may not have helped that the Fox executive in charge, Carla Hacken, was a former agent who had never overseen a production before.) There were also constant rewrites as cameras rolled. ”At one point things were so bad, our cigarette intake doubled,” says screenwriter Ted Griffin. ”We thought, ‘We may not get the movie made, but we will get emphysema.”’
The last straw was the Ravenous footage itself, which didn’t make the studio happy. Filming stopped, and Manchevski was fired. ”We were so relieved,” says a member of the production team. ”We begged the studio to fire him for months.” Adds another on the project: ”I hope he stays in Hollywood jail for a long, long time.” Manchevski, through his lawyer, declined to comment, but has told friends he never wants to go through the studio process again.
Ravenous shut down for two weeks as Fox searched for a replacement. The studio flirted with Home Alone 3 director Raja Gosnell but hired Antonia Bird, who had worked with Robert Carlyle on Priest and Face. ”With Milcho, the set was heavy and untenable,” says one insider on the production. ”Now it’s going on like a house on fire. The whole atmosphere has changed.”