Why Did Shane Salerno Alter His Controversial 'Salinger' Documentary? (Exclusive)

Shane Salerno
Shane Salerno
 Getty Images

Earlier this week, Harvey Weinstein and Shane Salerno announced they were adding new material to Salinger, Salerno's documentary about iconic author J.D. Salinger that opened in theaters earlier this month.

What the release didn't really explain was why. Some inside sources tell THR that it was done to address the concerns of critics, many --- but certainly not all -- of whom lambasted the film. Sources close to Salerno dispute that, and say it was changed to add additional footage and to prepare a version for broadcast on PBS' American Masters series early next year. The new version -- billed as a "special edition" -- will replace the original cut in theaters this weekend as Salinger expands into more than 60 markets across the U.S. after playing in New York and Los Angeles.

Q&A: Shane Salerno on His Effort to Bring the Private Author's Life to the Screen 

All told, about 13 minutes of the original film were cut, while about eight minutes of new material was added, including additional interview time with Joyce Maynard, who had a relationship with Salinger when she was 18 and he was 53. There also is new footage of the author.

The special edition is five minutes shorter (the movie runs 123 minutes). The Weinstein Co. cleared the new version with the MPAA's ratings board, according to sources.

It is highly unusual for a movie to be changed when it's already out. But Weinstein is known for his dogged determination to make his films work at the box office. Salinger, receiving mountains of free publicity because of its subject matter, faces a key test as it ups theater count from four to 138. While the film did notable business during its opening weekend, it needs good word of mouth to build.

Throughout his career, Weinstein has been a force of nature in the editing room, often to the consternation of filmmakers. Insiders say Weinstein gave notes to Salerno with multiple suggestions. However, Salerno has final cut authority and said through his representatives that the special edition is the version he had always planned to air on PBS.

In particular, some reviewers took issue with Salinger's use of reenactments (in many of them, a man is typing on an old-fashioned computer) as well as the dramatic music. Both the reenactments and the music have been toned down, with some of the reenactments gone completely.

VIDEO: 'Salinger' Trailer Teases Angry, Possibly Troubled Side of Author

When announcing the special edition, TWC and Salerno also revealed they are developing a feature biopic of J.D. Salinger.

"I'm beyond excited to share more of the fascinating material we discovered in its new special edition and look forward to continuing my relationship with Harvey and TWC in developing a narrative film about this brilliant, intriguing man," Salerno said.

Added Weinstein: "Shane has created an amazing documentary about one of the most beloved but enigmatic literary figures of our time. We are glad he was able to take the opportunity to add fantastic new footage."

comments powered by Disqus