UK writer-director Michael Winterbottom has taken aim at Sony for cuts he says the studio made to his new movie Greed, which debuted at Toronto and rolls out this fall and winter.
The prolific UK filmmaker, well known for The Trip franchise and movies including The Killer Inside Me, expressed frustration in a frank interview with The Guardian over cuts insisted on by the studio, whose international film division financed the feature with UK broadcaster Film4.
Greed, starring Steve Coogan, is a satire on the world of the super-rich. It homes in on the excesses of a fashion tycoon, who is based on controversial UK billionaire Philip Green. Also starring are Isla Fisher, Asa Butterfield, Sophie Cookson, David Mitchell, Stephen Fry and Shirley Henderson.
According to the piece, the original version of the film ended with a series of cards spelling out how little money workers earn in sweatshops in Myanmar and Bangladesh, while fashion moguls rake in extraordinary profits. The cards highlighted the fortunes of retail tycoons such as H&M’s owner, Stefan Persson, who is worth about $18B, and Zara’s owner Amancio Ortega, worth around $67B.
Winterbottom said these cards were a big hit at test screenings but were pulled by the studio because it was “worried about the potential damage to Sony’s corporate relations with these brands.”
The filmmaker said other captions pointed out that music stars such as Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, Robbie Williams and Jennifer Lopez “have all been happy to take cash to go and play at Philip Green’s parties.” These too were pulled by Sony, he said.
“The impact of the film was bigger when we were being more specific, more dynamic, more impactful, more clear,” Winterbottom said. “You want to make people feel angry and frustrated and to want change.”
In the piece, Winterbottom tells the Guardian that Brit film financiers with a public-service remit shouldn’t sign over control of local stories to foreign multinationals. “That seems to me to be wrong,” the director said about half of profits from a UK indie movie going to a relative studio giant.
It’s worth noting that the more precise a satirical movie is in embarrassing a specific real-world person (or billionaire, in this instance), the more likely that person is to sue the production. That was an anxiety from the early stages on this film, and one that was likely heightened when a studio came aboard.
Sony was unavailable for comment.
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