UPDATE, 12:38 PM: The Artist‘s distributor The Weinstein Company got blindsided this morning by the full-page ad that Kim Novak bought in a trade complaining about the Oscar-buzzed pic’s use of Bernard Herrmann’s score from Vertigo. Instead of commenting itself, TWC supplied a comment on the matter from The Artist writer-director-editor Michel Hazanavicius: “The Artist was made as a love letter to cinema, and grew out of my (and all of my cast and crew’s) admiration and respect for movies throughout history. It was inspired by the work of Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau and Wilder. I love Bernard Herrmann and his music has been used in many different films and I’m very pleased to have it in mine. I respect Kim Novak greatly and I’m sorry to hear she disagrees.” Separately, I’m told by our Oscar expert Pete Hammond that the music branch of the Academy reviewed the eligibility of The Artist for Best Score, because the film employed Herrmann’s music. Because 80% of the music was original, and because the inclusion of Herrmann’s memorable music was meant as an homage in that rarity of rarities, an old-style silent film full of music, the film was deemed eligible. The Weinstein Company continues not to comment on the matter.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 9:02 AM: Kim Novak has gone public with a press release and a trade ad to express her ire over The Artist‘s use of Bernard Herrmann’s music from Vertigo as backdrop for the silent film. I just spoke with Novak’s longtime manager Sue Cameron, and she told me that the actress is an Oscar voter. When the actress popped in a screener of the film to figure out her ballot, she recognized the music immediately and didn’t feel flattered that a signature song from one of her best-known films got an encore. “She was sitting in her living room, she put the DVD in, and then went into an absolute state of shock and devastation,” Cameron said. “When you sit in a theater and familiar music comes on that engenders ready-made emotion from a past film, and they use that music to evoke those same emotions, it’s quite hurtful. We know that they had the legal right to use the music, but it’s the music that was the backdrop for classic scenes, like Kim and Jimmy Stewart kissing by the tree, driving along the coast in the car. She is very, very upset.”
This Oscar season has so far been tame in terms of bad-mouthing, and I don’t think I’ve heard a complaint quite like this one before. How many will recognize music from a film released in 1958? Cameron said Novak felt strongly enough to pay for the full-page trade ad, which isn’t cheap. One looming question is whether Novak has jeopardized her status as a voter, and violated the rules by publicly maligning a movie that is a frontrunner for Best Picture. I will provide updates as I get some clarity, and reaction from The Weinstein Company, which released The Artist. Here is Novak’s reaction, in her own words:
Los Angeles: “I want to report a rape,” said Kim Novak, the legendary star of “Vertigo,” “Picnic,” and many other revered classics. “My body of work has been violated by ‘The Artist.’ This film took the Love Theme music from “Vertigo” and used the emotions it engenders as its own. Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart can’t speak for themselves, but I can. It was our work that unconsciously or consciously evoked the memories and feelings to the audience that were used for the climax of ‘The Artist.’”
Novak went on to say that “The Artist” could and should have been able to stand on its own. “There was no reason for them to depend on Bernard Herrmann’s score from ‘Vertigo’ to provide more drama. ‘Vertigo’s’ music was written during the filming. Hitchcock wanted the theme woven musically in the puzzle pieces of the storyline. Even though they did given Bernard Herrmann a small credit at the end, I believe this kind of filmmaking trick to be cheating. Shame on them!”
This kind of “borrowing” could portend a dangerous future for all artists in film. “It is morally wrong of people in our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what the original work was intended. It is essential that all artists safeguard our special bodies of work for posterity, with their individual identities intact and protected.