The Richard Gere-Lena Olin film "Mr. Jones" finally hit theaters Oct. 8, after 19 months of post-production that included several test screenings, rewrites and reshoots by two different directors. It didn't help. After opening to mixed reviews, the verdict in the industry was that "Mr. Jones" was heading south. It took in only $3.2 million on 1,481 screens.
A drama about a romance between a charming manic-depressive (Gere) and his therapist (Olin) from a script by Eric Roth and Michael Cristofer, "Mr. Jones" began filming in November, 1991, and wrapped the following March.
The first reshoot, in late November, 1992, under "Jones" director Mike Figgis (his "Internal Affairs" also starred Gere), used added scenes and dialogue by Richard Friedenberg ("A River Runs Through It"). The second occurred in June under pinch-hitting director Jon Amiel (who directed Gere in "Sommersby"), with new scenes written by C. Gaby Mitchell.
The official TriStar line is that Figgis' commitment to his next movie, "The Browning Version," made him unavailable for the second round of reshoots. Other sources have alleged that Figgis was unhappy with the proposed changes.
The reason for the reshoots, say TriStar and "Mr. Jones" sources, was that Figgis' first cut didn't test well with research audiences. Neither did his next version, assembled after the late '92 reshoots.
A senior TriStar executive, declining to be identified, differs. "The picture did not test badly," he says. "There were just some nagging questions that suggested some things weren't clear."
A prevailing view among some "Mr. Jones" insiders, however, is that the Amiel-Mitchell reshoots sweetened the film. According to those who've seen it in its various stages, "Jones" was modified from a sometimes unsettling film about adult emotional issues--an emphasis that Figgis favored, sources say--into a smoother, slightly gauzier experience.
"All we did was improve the pacing and sharpen the focus," says the TriStar executive. "The first reshoot changes were minor, and the second time we went a little more radical."
Among the changes:
* A softer seduction scene between Gere and Olin. In the Figgis version, the pair make love on the floor of Olin's hospital office while Gere is a residing patient. The current version is a gentler scene in a wooded area during a rainstorm, after Gere leaves the hospital.
* A romantic walk-on-the-beach scene, occurring roughly midway through the film, was added by Amiel and Mitchell.
* A confrontation between Olin and hospital administrator Anne Bancroft, who gives Olin a stern but compassionate rebuke for sleeping with Gere, was mostly eliminated. Also missing is a Figgis scene showing a heated argument between Gere and Olin after she breaks off their relationship.
* A Gere-Olin reconciliation scene on a bluff overlooking the Pacific was scrapped in favor of a similar scene on a San Diego rooftop. This scene was shot twice, once by Figgis in late '92 and again by Amiel the following summer. The irony is that Figgis' version--which was shorter than Amiel's--was used for the final version.
Despite the changes, "Mr. Jones" failed to ignite.
"In the final analysis we made a good film," the TriStar executive declares. "But some movies take off and some don't."