Glenn Gordon Caron, the director of the soon-to-be-released Warren BeattyAnnette Bening movie "Love Affair," has heard the buzz going around Hollywood, and it bothers him. The rumor for weeks has been that Beatty--not Caron--really directed the film.
"I'm the director of this film," Caron insisted in an interview. "Under scrutiny, the rumors fall apart."
Yet as the Warner Bros.' release heads toward its Oct. 21 opening, it has become increasingly clear that "Love Affair" is not quite Caron's movie.
Not only did Beatty produce, co-write (with Robert Towne) and star in the movie (with his actress wife Bening), he was given the "final cut" over the director in the editing room--a rare contractual guarantee given to only a handful of powerful producers and stars.
That means that Beatty--not Caron or Warner Bros.--has the ultimate say over which version of the film will go to the theaters.
Beatty is an accomplished director in his own right, having won an Academy Award for best director for his 1981 film "Reds," but industry observers agree it is a sensitive and potentially tension-provoking situation when a producer or star has final say over a director. The director is generally considered the creative force behind a movie.
Beatty, asked Friday in a telephone interview about the arrangement, told The Times: "I don't believe in participating in that kind of analysis before a movie opens. 'Love Affair' is a picture that I like very much, made by the collaboration of extremely gifted people. I'm happy with it, and the director is happy with it. I don't see the point in elaborating."
Caron is perhaps best known as the creator and producer of the hit 1980s TV series "Moonlighting," which starred Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. Caron made his feature-film directing debut with the powerful 1988 drama "Clean and Sober," starring Michael Keaton and released by Warner Bros. Last year, he directed "Wilder Napalm," a critical and box office flop.
In a telephone interview, Caron said he did not object to Beatty having final cut on "Love Affair," although he did not deny that there were times when the two did not see eye to eye. He explained: "I had my cut. We sat down together, looked at my cut, and there were a number of things he wanted to do. At a certain point, he pressed on. It became clear there were things we didn't agree on, that we were never going to come together on. He exercised his prerogatives to do those things he wanted. It was totally fair."
Caron added that, given Beatty's accomplishments, "it would be foolish not to at least listen. As the process continued, he had things he wanted to do."
Caron would not elaborate on what the disagreements were about, but he added that they were "nothing of consequence, nothing of substance."
Beatty said: "It was my impression we didn't disagree on anything. . . . I've never wound up in a disagreement with any director I've produced a picture for."
Some Hollywood insiders, however, say Beatty's signature is all over the movie.
"The director wasn't even allowed in the editing room," said one high-profile agent, "and there's some question about who really directed this movie."
Asked if Caron did in fact direct the movie, Beatty responded: "Of course; he's the director."
Had Beatty usurped his role as director, Caron said, people on the set would have noticed and "it would have become public very fast."
When it comes to determining whether a producer will get final cut, "a lot depends on the particular success of a director," the source said. For instance, Beatty did not have final cut on "Bugsy," in which he starred and was a producer, given Barry Levinson's stature as a director.
According to one prominent Hollywood lawyer: "There are a handful of powerful producers who have a contractual final cut behind a director of a certain level." Over the years, that select group has included such hyphenate filmmakers as Steven Spielberg, Sydney Pollack, Jim Brooks and Oliver Stone, who sometimes take off their director hats to produce other filmmaker's movies.
In addition, a few A-list actors such as Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood can sometimes negotiate final-cut deals on movies they star in and produce.
"It's different with every deal, and it really depends on who and what you're talking about," said one agent who represents top talent. As for producers getting final cut, he said that although it's not unprecedented, "it's not usual."
A spokesman for the Directors Guild of America said that there is no blanket rule against allowing producers the final cut but that the DGA would not like to see it become a common practice.
DGA spokesman Chuck Warn said of Beatty: "He's a multiply talented individual who won an Oscar as a director and is one of the major movie stars of all time. In this situation, it's not a problem. If it became a practice where producers were attempting to go around the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and we saw it as a virus in the creative process, then the DGA would be on the scene."
Beatty has been in the forefront of efforts to strengthen the hand of directors. In 1985, for example, he won a significant artists' rights battle after ABC wanted to cut his "Reds" for a network showing, so that it would end in time for the late evening news.
The final-cut issue has stirred the passions of filmmakers for years. Only a dozen or so filmmakers have final-cut privileges written in their contracts; however, all directors are guaranteed cuts under the Directors Guild bargaining agreement.
"As part of the contract, the director is allowed to cut his movie after it has been screened or previewed somewhere, and then, based on the audience reaction, he can make a second cut," one source said. "As a practical matter, what is happening is most directors are taking about three cuts to fine-tune their movies."
The studios usually retain the right to final cut, and directors fume if some studio executive steps in and invokes it.
"Love Affair" is a remake of the 1939 Leo McCarey movie starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer; it was followed by the 1957 classic "An Affair to Remember," starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
The Beatty-Bening film involves a man and woman who fall unexpectedly and deeply in love while they're on a trip in the South Pacific, though both are engaged to others. When they return to the United States, they agree to have no contact with each other for three months, and then meet at the top of the Empire State Building. But Bening's character is injured on her way to the rendezvous and Beatty's character, not knowing what happened, assumes she chose not to honor her commitment.
Beatty wrote the script with Towne before Caron came on board in February of 1993. According to published reports, Beatty originally wanted to direct the picture himself but opted for Caron so that he could work on "developing the characters to their potential" and his performance.
Still, the big question in Hollywood circles remains: Why didn't Beatty just direct the movie to begin with?
Beatty, who is in New York on a press junket for "Love Affair," sidestepped the question Friday, saying he was dashing off to tape "Late Show With David Letterman."