American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy said he decided to recut the upcoming episode of the current season of the anthology Cult to tone down a mass shooting in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre.
“I believe I have the right to air it. But I also believe in victims’ rights and I believe that now is not the week to have something explosive or incendiary in the culture,” he said during a New Yorker Festival conversation with TV critic Emily Nussbaum. The shooting sequence was devised and shot months before the Las Vegas incident, he said. After discussions with Fox execs and other members of the team behind the show, the episode was re-edited to have the violence de-emphasized and occur largely off-screen.
“It was meant to be an obvious anti-gun warning about society,” Murphy noted about the intent of the show.
While he endeavors to be sensitive, Murphy told Nussbaum that, as a viewer, he finds very little offensive. “But I grew up as an artist in the ’80s with huge cultural discussions about Serrano and Piss Christ and ‘Should it be banned,’ and ‘Should somebody be allowed to create certain kinds of work? ‘” Asked about the frequent charge that he is self-consciously trying to provoke, Murphy insisted, “I never do anything to offend.”
The nearly two-hour session covered a large amount of ground, from Murphy’s childhood to his adventures as a crime reporter and celebrity journalist and finally to his travels through Hollywood over the past two decades.
He talked about his collaborations with women, including Lena Dunham, who is playing Andy Warhol shooter Valerie Solanas in an upcoming arc on Cult. He said he has often been able to connect with women by assuring them, as he did with Jessica Lange, that “I will take care of her and listen to her and make her feel safe.”
That theme led to the inevitable question about Harvey Weinstein and the revelations of decades of sexual misdeeds. Murphy said he had had only one direct interaction with him, a congratulatory call from Weinstein about Murphy’s adaptation of The Normal Heart.
“I do know my way around an Oscar-winning lady or two,” he said. “There is always a minefield you navigate when you’re a woman.” He always had detected an “ick factor” about Weinstein, he continued. And yet, he added, “The timing of this is interesting. I do think the business and the world are changing.” He added later in the conversation: “If you try that in a corporate environment, you get slapped down.”