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Roughly two years after being shelved when the then-Weinstein Company film got caught up in the sexual misconduct allegations against co-founder Harvey Weinstein, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Current War is finally set to hit theaters Friday, this time as a director’s cut.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the New York premiere of the 101 Studios film Monday night, the director described the journey from the near-death and eventual rebirth of his film, which follows the dramatic race between Thomas Edison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) to illuminate the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, as emotionally wrought. But that pain would also lay the groundwork for the movie he wanted to make.
“There was a period there when it was quiet, there was uncertainty, and no one knew what was going to happen to the film. It was a very difficult time,” Gomez-Rejon told THR. “But I never stopped editing the movie in my head. Looking back on it — not in the moment because that was deafening and painful — but looking back on it, it was a blessing. That moment of silence between, for as painful as it was, allowed me to recut the movie in my head, knowing what I had — what the reality of the footage was — and knowing what I needed.”
Both the director and writer Michael Mitnick were thankful that their film is seeing the light of day.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Mitnick said of the movie’s release. “I still will not believe it until I go to a theater and buy a ticket myself to see it. It’s been 11 years on this one, but I feel incredibly lucky that we got a chance to make the film that we wanted. I feel fully aware of how rare that is. So I’m just grateful and excited.”
Gomez-Rejon said the outcome, as well as the hard learning experiences that came with it, reaffirmed his unflinching passion for the craft of filmmaking. “Every film you decide to make has to be worth fighting for, dying for,” the director said. “There has to be a very clear idea of why you’re making it because the next one may be as difficult, maybe more difficult than this one. God, I hope it is not, but you still have to have a reason to keep fighting, and that has to be very clear before you undertake any project.”
This dedication was shared with Mitnick, producers and castmembers Tuppence Middleton, Shannon and Cumberbatch, whose “most beautiful show of support” during reshoots was echoed at the premiere.
“This film coming back to life had to do with all the people involved in it, the cast, crew, the incredible [director of photography] Chung-hoon Chung, Alfonso and Michael Mitnick with his script. People worked hard, and it’s about honoring that hard work,” Cumberbatch said. “That’s why I’m here talking about this film.”
Executive producer Adam Sidman echoed Cumberbatch’s sentiments about the film’s release being a true group endeavor. He also championed Gomez-Rejon’s care for his cast and his story, as well as his “uncanny ability to be very meticulous and never compromise.” That’s all why, Mitnick said, the director was the “perfect fit” to steer this film.
“He’s a visionary, the same way as Edison and Tesla,” the film’s producer Timur Bekmambetov told THR. “When I met him for the first time, I understood that he had something. He enjoys creating a world, not just telling a story. For him, it’s not just a story. It’s more than a story.”
“He’s so creative. He’s so kind. He’s a very gentle soul,” said Middleton of her Current War director. “I feel really lucky to have been one of, I think, two women who are kind of at the forefront of this film, and it was really fortunate that Alfonso also really cared about the female story in the context of this film.”
The director’s deep care stretched throughout the film’s production and reshoots, but it became especially important while in the re-editing process, which Sidman says saw the director staying up in the 101 Studios offices until 2 or 3 a.m. for months. During that time, Gomez-Rejon cut, reflected on and recut the movie again to make it truly his.
The result is “an entirely different movie,” said Sidman, and one, Middleton told THR, that really allowed Gomez-Rejon’s modern way of shooting what could’ve been a straight period piece to shine. “I think it’s partly because he works with the amazing Chung-hoon Chung. They worked on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl together, which I loved,” Middleton said. “They had a very unique way of looking at it. It’s very pace-y, the momentum is always kind of going with the help of these crazy camera angles.”
For the director, refusal to give up was about telling the world the 2017 cut, which screened at the Toronto Film Festival to less-than-rave reviews, was not only not his version, but also not who he was as a director.
“One can get confused with the notes and the chaos and the noise and the opinions and losing leverage and getting it back and losing it again,” said Gomez-Rejon. “It was important to me to be able to look people in the eyes and tell them I did my best. There was a time in the past where I couldn’t. To have the second chance to really go all out and feel that I did my best — to have the cast and crew follow me on this journey — it means the world to me.”
It’s a second chance that everyone in attendance was proud of. “Whatever happened in the past, we’ve moved behind us,” Sidman told THR. “We know that it’s Alfonso’s film and it’s the strongest film that it can be.”
“Everyone deserves a second chance, you know?” said Bekmambetov. “And really it’s not a second chance, it’s the first chance because the first one was not a chance.”
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