If only someone could make a $35 million dollar film about the drama surrounding the cinematic Hindenberg that is “Grace of Monaco,” that might be worth watching.
It’s got compelling characters: a notoriously bullying, Oscar-chasing control freak distributor (Harvey Weinstein), an overly precious French director (Olivier Dahan), and a leading lady with a frozen face attempting to play a woman who is more than a decade younger than her (Nicole Kidman).
Give the whole thing a whimsical score — maybe get Jeff Richmond to do it — and you could release it as comedy.
But really – how did this Kidman vehicle — with powerful Hollywood backing — about a glamorous international celebrity movie go from possible Oscar bait to skipping a theatrical release altogether and airing Memorial Day weekend on Lifetime?
Was it really that bad? Like, “Liz and Dick” bad?
Well, as we know from the Cannes reviews, no one thought it was good.
Here are the key points:
Everybody hates Olivier.
Weinstein and “Grace of Monaco” director Olivier Dahan famously clashed over edits, which is what led to the film’s release being pushed from November 2013 to March 2014. If it seems like we’ve been discussing this $35 million boondoggle for forever, it’s because, well, we have.
Weinstein told reporters at the Zurich International Film Festival that the film “just wasn’t ready.” “The score wasn’t ready, a lot of things weren’t ready,” he said.
“Decisions are made only with respect to marketing, exit, etc,” Dahan said. “All that is boring actually, and pollutes a film that also other people saw, and like a lot. This is a misplaced ego problem, a history of manipulation and power. Not cinema in the strict sense. Cinema is very secondary in all this, hence my lack of interest which begins to come for this film.”
When the film finally premiered at Cannes last year in May, Weinstein was very noticeably absent. He and wife Georgina Chapman were in Jordan visiting Syrian refugee camps, a trip he said had been long planned.
Later, he gave an explanation to Deadline:
The script we signed on for was like “The King’s Speech,” with the big moment where Princess Grace steps up. That is what attracted Nicole. I made eight movies with her including co-producing “The Hours” with Paramount, and “The Others.” I know why she took it and why I was involved. I’d seen rushes that were great. The director is French, and he turned it more into a Hitchcock movie like a paean to “Vertigo,” which ironically Grace wasn’t in. The writer, Arash Amel, called me and said, “what happened to my script?” It’s like, “welcome to Hollywood.” Writers don’t have any say, but we decided to pair him up with a team of people and see what he could do about restoring the movie to the way it looked when he wrote it. He did a wonderful job. You can ask Nicole. A beautiful job.
The director refused and criticized me profusely. In the old days, I would have fought for it. Here, I said, the better part of valor was just to tell Nicole, you should get this done and if you can’t then I’m not going to, because I’m tired of this. I don’t want these fights. That movie would have been helped greatly by the writer’s cut of the film and it’s something that people should see someday. It wasn’t a transformative movie but it was a damn entertaining one. But Olivier Dahan wanted to do what Olivier wanted to do. He called me names in the French newspapers. I figured the best thing to do was to step out.
When the news broke that “Grace of Monaco” would be airing on Lifetime, Amel greeted it with some mighty shady boots, tweeting, “I’m just glad the director’s vision found its rightful home.”
He teased his followers with a proposal: “This Memorial Day, shall I own this beautiful disaster? If enough interest I’ll live tweet what really went on behind scenes #GraceOfMonaco.” He continued, “Consider my proposed live tweet of #GraceOfMonaco on @lifetimetv on Memorial Day as the DVD commentary that should have been.” He later confirmed that he’s doing it.
However, as much as Weinstein and Amel piled on Dahan, Variety critic Scott Foundas couldn’t see how a different cut would have helped much, and called Amel’s script “agonizingly airless and contrived.”
“Dahan’s strained bid to recapture the critical and commercial success of his smash Edith Piaf biopic ‘La Vie en rose’ is the sort of misbegotten venture no amount of clever re-editing could hope to improve,” he wrote.
The royal family of Monaco hated the movie.
Not only did they hate it, they made sure everyone knew just how much they hated it.
“The trailer appears to be a farce and confirms the totally fictional nature of this film,” they said in a statement, adding, “The Princely family does not in any way wish to be associated with this film which reflects no reality and regrets that its history has been misappropriated for purely commercial purposes.”
No one knows which cut will appear on Lifetime.
Despite the fact that a version of “Grace of Monaco” will appear on Lifetime, no one knows which version that is. Dahan’s famously panned cut is the one that premiered at Cannes, but there’s also a Weinstein-approved cut and yet another one Amel prefers.