BREAKING: Harold Becker has left the director’s chair on the Nicolas Cage starring drama thriller Vengeance: A Love Story during pre-production. Cage — who has a long history with the producer/financier Michael Mendelsohn — has stepped in to helm the project which he had already signed on to star. A source with knowledge of the goings on said that there was a dispute over the budget which producers wanted to trim by $1M and a disagreement arose on whether it would affect the quality of the picture. Another source said that Becker just wasn’t up for the job.
“The financier thought it could be done for less and Becker thought it would affect the quality of the film so, they shook hands and said, it’s not going to work out, good-bye,” said a source with knowledge of dispute.
In taking the reigns, Cage steps behind the camera for the first time since 2001-2002 when he made his directorial debut on the crime thriller Sonny which he did through his production company Saturn Films. That one starred James Franco, Brenda Blethyn and Mena Suvari, but unfortunately, the film was not very well received. It’s a Herculean job to star in and also direct a film.
Becker now will have an exec producer credit on Vengeance: A Love Story, which is based on the Joyce Carol Oates 2003 novella. The film has undergone various incarnations over the years — at one point with Samuel L. Jackson attached for the detective role that Cage has now — but Becker has seemingly always been part of the mix developing the story. It’s well known that he worked on the script by John Mankiewicz for several years. The sudden change comes as pre-production is already underway for a shoot to begin the first week of April in Atlanta.
Cage and the producer/financier for the film, Mendelsohn (who is the CEO of Patriot Pictures and Union Patriot Capital Management) go way back. In fact, they just completed a film (with Hannibal Pictures) about the WWII Navy heroes who were torpedoed by the Japanese after they delivered atomic bombs and had to survive in shark-filled water — USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. To give an idea how long the two have known each other — they collaborated on such films as Wild At Heart (1989-1990), Red Rock West (1993), The Family Man (2000), Lord of War (2005) and Rage (2014).
The film, which is still casting, stars Cage as a Niagra Falls Police detective who becomes impassioned with a case concerning the brutal rape of a young mother of a 12 year-old girl. When the meth-head rapists are caught, their parents hire a slick criminal defense attorney who then puts the victim on trial. The story is how this crime affects three generations of women — the mother, the 12-year-old and the grandmother (mother of the rape victim). So there are three female roles in this film.
Also executive producing is Link Entertainment’s Mike Nilon, who negotiated his client Cage’s deal (along with CAA). Hannibal Classics is the film’s sales agent, with executive producer Richard Rionda Del Castro (also a partner on the aforementioned Cage films USS Indianapolis and Rage).