As previously exclusively reported on Deadline, The Weinstein Company had its annual product preview session for press and buyers tonight at the Majestic Hotel, and the packed crowd got first looks at several films including Paddington, Macbeth, Imitation Game, Big Eyes, Suite Francaise, St. Vincent, and the in-production-phase Jake Gyllenhaal boxing film Southpaw. Harvey Weinstein presided over the presentation, but only after the highlights reel ended was there even a mention from him of the controversy over Grace Of Monaco, the movie TWC (which has U.S. distribution rights ) reportedly threatened to back away from if director Olivier Dahan did not make desired changes to his cut. The director’s cut, and the version that opened Cannes to some derision from critics (to say the least), is being released this week in France by Gaumont. Just before its official press conference Wednesday, it was announced that TWC and Dahan had come to an agreement and TWC would be releasing the film after all. Weinstein, in Jordan for a “long-planned” humanitarian mission, missed the opening-night screening and still hasn’t seen the version shown here. At least that’s what he told reporters who cornered him after tonight’s presentation.
Despite the TWC showcase, most of the questions afterward were about Grace. The TWC mogul defended his actions on the film and for standing up to the director, who he called a “nice guy”. For his part, Dahan told me at the lavish Gaumont after-premiere party Wednesday that he was happy with the way things have turned out and that if there are any changes to the film for its U.S. release, it will be a collaboration between him and The Weinstein Company. He said he previously has had little contact with Weinstein. Harvey clearly knows the ultimate commercial value in all of this: “Boy, am I ever getting great publicity on this. God, I would never even exploit it. It’s not like me to do that. But we’re going to call it Olivier Dahan’s Grace Of Monaco,” he said with a smile to the small group of writers who stuck microphones in his face.
Regarding the Monaco royal family heirs’ criticism of the film (which they say they refuse to see) and its portrayal of their parents, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, Weinstein was more to the point. “They have a legitimate problem with the movie. They actually do. In the movie there is a scene, if it were in the film, would go a long way to making peace up there. There’s a lot more to do with that incident than is portrayed, I think, in the film. I haven’t seen the final thing, but I do know there’s a scene in the script. But this is not about Grace Of Monaco. It’s about all these fine films we have, but I am going to pay my kids’ college bills with all your writing about this, and if you continue writing about Grace Of Monaco, I am going to buy them each a college,” he said as he tried to exit the room. He also urged reporters to check with the film’s screenwriter Arash Amel or its star Nicole Kidman on the same issue of that missing scene, indicating they will agree with the point he’s making. Weinstein never answered my repeated question on when he will release the film, but the company’s COO David Glasser said they will figure it out when they return from Cannes. “We don’t know,” he said. “We’ll go back and schedule when we get back. We only closed the [new] deal a few days ago.”
As for the actual show, Weinstein addressed flak about his trip to Jordan this week. It was the only mention at all of Grace Of Monaco in the presentation. “It was a long-planned trip, but I read some funny things because of the Grace Of Monaco screening. But it was planned long before I even knew Grace was going to be the opening-night film in Cannes. What was really funny was Neil Gaiman was there and writing a piece for The Guardian. But the movie reviewer [for the paper] obviously hadn’t talked to the editors because it said ‘Harvey Weinstein planned this trip to avoid seeing Grace Of Monaco‘ even when Neil Gaiman was writing the piece [about the trip], which proves that sometimes the editors of newspapers don’t even read their own newspapers. But I do like The Guardian because they stand up for freedom, and they’re great, ” he said before going on with a heartfelt description of the trip itself, which included several encounters with some of the 400,000 Syrian refugees now in Jordanian camps. Many of those he spoke with were kids who had seen horrible things happen to their families but brightened when the subject of movies came up. Weinstein’s wife, Georgina, is a member of UNHCR, the group that helps refugees in these camps, and he accompanied her on the trip. He said he’s making a documentary there on the whole subject and shot much of it there this week.