With Cannes Film Festival opener "Grace of Monaco" the subject of a long-running dispute over how the story of Grace Kelly should be told, the writer of the film says he gets how the late princess' story could be interpreted in different ways.
Arash Amel, the "Grace" screenwriter who also served as one of the film's producers, said in an interview that he understands the disparate takes on the actress-turned-princess, who famously met Prince Rainier while on a trip to the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 and married him the following year.
"Grace Kelly was a complicated figure, and some will see her as a princess story and others will see her as a more tragic tale," he said. "It's a matter of how you interpret the history."
On Thursday, The Times reported that two versions of the Nicole Kidman film have been cut, a lighter one by U.S. distributor the Weinstein Co. and a darker one by the film's French producer, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, and director Olivier Dahan.
The differing cuts came after -- and in turn gave rise to -- a number of salvos between the French filmmakers and company chief Harvey Weinstein, a back-and-forth that has led to a standoff between Weinstein and Indian financier YRF over an agreement to release the film in the U.S.
If the parties cannot come to an arrangement, it could result in the Weinstein Co. dropping the movie ahead of the Cannes Film Festival, putting its U.S. distribution prospects into question.
Amel said he preferred not to comment on the disagreement between the parties or any distribution issues.
But he said that he thinks the fact that Kelly could be seen in multiple ways says as much about the cultural backgrounds of the people involved as it does about Kelly herself. Many in the U.S., for instance, view Kelly, who raised three children with Rainier over their quarter-century of marriage, as a happy tale of a beautiful actress living out a real-life fantasy.
The French, already possessing a complicated relationship with Monaco, often view her more as a cautionary tale of a privately suffering victim of royal-family indifference than as a glittery success story.
"I think every country in the world will see this story a little bit differently," he said. "America and France are just the furthest apart on that spectrum."
Indeed, the Weinstein cut of the movie suggests a light, Capra-esque fairy tale, while the version led by Le Pogam and Dahan is a heavier narrative in which a difficult Prince Rainer led to Kelly leading a painful life not long after she arrived in Monaco.
What's striking is that both versions of the film derive from the same script.
"It is strange to have two fundamentally different movies based on one set of pages," Amel acknowledged. "It almost feels like I've written a play and I'm seeing two different stagings of the work." Words that were uttered sweetly in the U.S. version, for instance, can be said with a harsh edge in the French take; music and lighting could also influence how we view the action.
"It's a fascinating study in how many ways there are to read a text," he said.
Europeans will soon get to judge one of those visions for themselves. Several days after the Cannes opening, the French version will open in theaters across that country, followed by the cut's release in Britain and other territories in the weeks following. The U.S. version, alternatively, may yet roll out in the States, but only if the Weinstein Co. can come to an agreement on the distribution deal.
Amel, who is set to begin a media tour in Europe for the film's rollout there, said that those expecting his script to follow a literal blow-by-blow of Kelly's life should think again. Rather, he said, he intended to show the subtle ways one can read a complicated figure who lived her life in the public eye.
"It was never about the truth in a literal way," he said. "It was about the interpretation of an icon."