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Nutcracker and the Four Realms to make history with shared director credit

It almost never happens, but two filmmakers are about to share directing credits for a major Hollywood feature. It's been announced that both Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston will be recognized as directors for Disney's THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS, the studio's upcoming live-action adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker. Written by Ashleigh Powell and Simon Beaufoy, the fantasy adventure starring Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman tells the story of a young girl who is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

As the story goes, Hallstrom, who in the past has helmed such films as CHOCOLAT and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, was originally hired as the director of Disney's newest Nutcracker film. Then in December of 2017, it was revealed by THR that Joe Johnston had come aboard the project to direct a significant amount of re-shoots (which included new material written by Tom McCarthy) that would take up to 32 days to capture. To be clear, Johnston was invited onto the set due in-part to his extensive background in visual effects. Couple this with the fact that Hallstrom was unable to fit the re-shoots into his schedule and there you have it.

With Hallstrom planning to return for the post-production process, the question of who would receive the film's director credit was raised. Then, in what is assuredly a rare move, it was decided by the DGA (Director's Guild of America) that Hallstrom’s name will appear on the first line of the title card for the movie's director, with Johnston’s name appearing on a second line, just below Hallstrom's on the same card. While this might not sound like a big deal, it's important to keep in mind that the DGA could not immediately recall a similar situation where two directors, who were not part of an established team, have voluntarily shared the credit. It's like the black and white cookie of filmmaking. Delicious.

“It was an absolute blessing to have Joe Johnston step in when it became clear that I wouldn’t be available for reshoots,” Hallstrom told THR. “Joe is the ultimate expert in visual effects and I enjoyed collaborating with him on this film."

Typically, the DGA rules that only one filmmaker can be credited with directing a film. Yes, there are occasions where that statute is nixed, but only for established directing teams that the guild recognizes as having either a history of working together or presenting a collaborative vision. If you want some examples, you need look no further than directing duos the likes of Ethan and Joel Cohen, Joe and Anthony Russo, and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Obviously, a second director stepping onto a film is something that happens quite frequently, these days. When a new (or second) director steps onto the scene to helm re-shoots or additional material, its then up to the DGA to decide who receives the director credit. In the end, the process involves a lot of logistics, time spent behind the camera, days logged, and so on.

There's no telling when we'll see another dual-director credit on a major Hollywood film, though perhaps THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS will be the spark that starts the fire, so to speak? Either way, it'll be nice to see both Hallstrom and Johnston's name taking center stage.

Disney's THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS will arrive in theaters November 2nd.

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