He is the Oscar-winning producer responsible for the past two winners of the Academy award for best film and is widely seen as an awards season marketing genius without equal. But Harvey Weinstein has admitted that even he does not always get it right: the Miramax founder and chairman of the Weinstein Company has said he blames himself for Quentin Tarantino’s failure to secure a best director nomination for his blood-spattered anti-slavery polemic, Django Unchained, and is also admitting culpability for The Master’s disappointing box office results.
In a candid interview from the recent Sundance film festival, published on the Deadline blog, Weinstein revealed he made a fateful decision not to send Django Unchained screener DVDs out to Academy members in December because he wanted them to see the film on the big screen. Tarantino’s film was nominated for five Oscars, including the film-maker himself for original screenplay, but did not secure a coveted best director nod.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘robbed’, but Quentin Tarantino not in the running for best director? He is one of the greatest directors of our time,” said Weinstein. “Here’s what I think happened on Django. We finished the movie December 1. We didn’t show it until a few days later. The race was early this year: the voting cutoff was January 3. We tried to show it to people in theatres, not on DVD. It’s an epic movie and that man put his whole life and heart into this. It’s his most important movie, his most important subject matter, and the idea of DVDs stopped me cold. And I stopped them. I wouldn’t do it.
“I wanted people to see it on the big screen. I told Quentin we’d probably pay the price at the Oscars, but it was the right way to see an epic period movie about a man who does not give up. Eventually, we gave out the DVDs but we paid the price for being late. We paid no price as far as the gigantic business the movie’s doing. It’s the biggest of Quentin’s career. After we put our heart and soul into the movie, the Oscar campaign was secondary. But make no mistake about it – we got five nominations including best picture, and we only had one week. We sent the DVDs out on December 17.”
Weinstein also said he took the blame for the financial failure of Paul Thomas Anderson’s critically acclaimed postwar drama The Master, which has taken just $24m worldwide and received only acting nominations for the Oscars earlier this month. “I probably could have marketed it better,” he said. “I probably should have prepared the audience. We opened up to the highest per screen average ever, but I think the audience had trouble with the movie and needed to be guided and eased into it.”
The producer of The King’s Speech and The Artist said he regretted focusing attention on the film’s links to Scientology – Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a cult leader reminiscent of Scientology’s founder L Ron Hubbard – leading to audience expectation of a film attacking the movement. “My attachment to The Master was not the Scientology or religion; it was that in the second world war, people like my dad and other combat veterans came back and were just lost after the war,” Weinstein said. “Maybe if I’d explained the movie in those terms, that it was more of a spiritual quest for a veteran who had seen action and got lost, people might have responded differently.”
“I’d told Paul that was my attraction. But there were so many themes in the movie and I was also fascinated by the Scientology, the whole idea of the beginning of a religion or a cult. The emotional attachment in that was something else, but maybe people were expecting an exposé and they didn’t get it.”
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