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Thinly Veiled controversy

12.19.2006by:

We haven’t quite reached the point of DEFCON 1 Academy Award saturation so the distinct lack of campaigning for the Edward Norton-and-Naomi Watts starrer THE PAINTED VEIL, a rather heavily pedigreed contender, thus far may not have been glaring enough to be picked up by anything less than the most focused of eyes, but those paying close attention may be taking notice that, as Oscar Watch pieces start popping up everywhere, there’s relatively little mention of the film. According to an article from The Hollywood Reporter, many are pointing to Warner Bros.’ agreement to allow China, the country in which the movie was shot, to have control over final cut as the cause for all the campaign delays. Before filming even commenced, the producers, the filmmakers, Warner China (co-producer of VEIL, 30% owned by WB proper), and the Chinese government went through the screenplay and agreed to tone down depictions of Chinese-on-Chinese conflict and crowds of protestors. It was upon submittal of a heavily restructured semi-final cut of the film, when the government demanded even more edits, that Norton and director John Curran took issue. Still, Warners president Alan Horn says, “It's about honoring a deal. Final cut is final cut. There were arguments about restoring 38 seconds over six scenes. We didn't feel that was much of a problem. It's subjective. Is it a lot or a little? They had spirited dialogue. That dialogue resulted in some things being restored. But at the end of the day, the decision was up to the Chinese”

Becoming agitated with the treatment of the movie, producer Bob Yari, who financed 80% percent of VEIL’s budget, offered to buy back the movie and release it independently, not unlike what he did with the Norton-starring THE ILLUSIONIST a couple months back. Warners claims they entertained this idea but Yari neglected to follow up, and they were further turned off by his offers to provide additional funding for advertisement that would have him recouping his investment before the studio gets theirs.

Also likely affecting a push for VEIL is Warner Bros.’ strong line-up of other Oscar contenders, including THE DEPARTED, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA and HAPPY FEET, all expensive productions that overshadow VEIL’S $21 million budget. Despite this, Warners claims they are behind their movie and have confidence in its Oscar chances. Read more about this story HERE.

THE PAINTED VEIL opens in various limited releases on the 20th and 29th of this month and goes wide on January 18th.

Extra Tidbit: Yari doesn't have hard feelings all-round, and says "this film is a valiant attempt at a Chinese co-production in a very difficult environment. The Chinese are on the verge of opening up to Western filmmaking and exhibition in their country. This was a groundbreaking film bringing a Western sensibility to their world, which has tightly controlled public information."

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