Martin Scorsese’s Bill Clinton Documentary Shelved Over Creative Control

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Martin Scorsese documentary on Bill Clinton stalls.

A documentary about former president Bill Clinton by veteran director Martin Scorsese has been indefinitely shelved after the two men disagreed over control of the film, the New York Times reported on Thursday. The Times, citing unnamed people advised on the project, reported that the partially completed film stalled after Clinton demanded more direction over the interview questions and the final product. The Times reported that Clinton’s spokesman, Matt McKenna, said claims that the film had been suspended due to the disputes were “inaccurate” without providing further detail.

The paper also reported that a spokesman for HBO, which backed the documentary, said, “It’s not happening soon but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.” HBO said last month that it had ordered a television series from Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter that would focus on the world of rock and roll in 1970s New York. Scorsese, who has previously made documentaries about such luminaries as Bob Dylan and George Harrison, called Clinton “a towering figure who remains a major voice in world issues,” while Clinton said he was pleased to have a “legendary director” like Scorsese chronicle his years as president and his work since leaving the White House.

How Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, who briefly worked as a special correspondent at NBC News, might figure in the film or on the production team was also an open question. Scorsese is best known for directing critically lauded films such as mob drama Goodfellas and most recently the acerbic comedy The Wolf of Wall Street. This week, a representative at his Sikelia Productions said the filmmaker and his associates were preoccupied with preparations in Taiwan for the filming of Silence, a period piece about Jesuit priests, which stars Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield and is set for release in the United States by Paramount Pictures. Sources close to the project tell the Los Angeles Times that, given the extremely busy schedules of both Scorsese and Clinton, the film was always expected to be a long time in the making. The reality is, though, that that kind of back-and-forth negotiation between subject and filmmaker is to be expected on any documentary, let alone one involving a public figure of Clinton’s stature.

Still, neither Clinton nor Scorsese proved able to overcome the complications inherent in an attempt to build entertainment – however informative a documentary might be – around a figure whose wife stands on the verge of another presidential campaign. Given Clinton’s complicated image and legacy, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were internal disagreements over the direction that the documentary should take — indeed, it would be more surprising if there weren’t. Clearly, the film carried the risk that an unflattering camera angle, unwelcome question or even an obvious omission by Scorsese would become a blemish to Clinton’s legacy or provide fodder for Clinton critics as the 2016 campaign approaches. Though PBS mounted a four-hour “American Experience” documentary on the Clintons in 2012, a planned 2013 CNN documentary on Hillary Clinton was scrapped because its director, Charles Ferguson, felt he couldn’t get sufficient access or cooperation. “When I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film,” Ferguson later wrote. In recent months, Bill Clinton’s team has shown increased discipline in keeping the former president on message ahead of his wife’s likely 2016 presidential campaign.

Lionsgate is currently developing a script called “Rodham” — which landed on the 2012 Black List — that dramatizes the early years in the Clintons’ relationship. While Clinton the Musical, a stage satire focused on Clinton administration scandals, is now set for an off-Broadway run beginning in March, other Clinton-themed entertainment projects have faltered. Also, Rodham, a planned feature film about the romance between a young Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham, has been struggling through Hollywood’s development process since Lionsgate acquired rights to it in 2013.

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