Movie Article

Up From the Ashes

Writer-director John Turturro brings his long-MIA movie musical ''Romance & Cigarettes'' to the public -- by releasing it himself for an NYC screening. Plus: The fates of four other films now sitting on the shelf

NO LONGER ON HOLD Kate Winslet in Tuturro's Romance
Image credit: K.C. Bailey
NO LONGER ON HOLD Kate Winslet in Tuturro's Romance

John Turturro knows from the blues. For more than three years, the actor-director has been trying to get his passion project, Romance & Cigarettes, into U.S. theaters. The musical dramedy about a long-suffering wife (Susan Sarandon) and her philandering husband (James Gandolfini) wrapped production in 2004, but soon fell between the cracks when original distributor United Artists (owned by MGM) was absorbed during the 2005 MGM-Sony merger. Fed up with waiting, Turturro has taken matters into his own hands: He's planning to self-release the $11 million production for a limited run at the New York City indie destination Film Forum on Sept. 7. It's an inauspicious debut for a movie with a strong A-list cast — Kate Winslet, Mary-Louise Parker, Mandy Moore, and Christopher Walken also star — that's played at both the Toronto and Venice film festivals. But Cigarettes' quirky conceit, in which the actors break into pop songs including ''I Want Candy,'' befuddled Sony execs. After a studio screening, Turturro remembers, ''they said, 'This is not for us. We don't get it.''' (A spokesperson for Sony replies, ''We have tremendous respect for the talent behind this thoroughly original film and look forward to distributing Romance & Cigarettes in cable, pay TV, and home entertainment platforms in 2008.'') Turturro even recut the film with exec producers Joel and Ethan Coen in a last-ditch attempt to find a new distributor, but had no luck. ''In a business like ours, once people say, 'We don't want something,' you're tainted goods,'' he admits. The experience left him hesitant to direct again (''I took such a beating''), but at least it's ending on a high note. ''[The release] may be small, but it's an unveiling. I'm happy about that.''

See a trailer from John Turturro's Romance & Cigarettes

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