After “Swingers,” did you get offered a lot of writing assignments? ^ Yeah, that’s kind of what happened. Remember, when I wrote “Swingers,” I was an actor and only an actor. I was sort of trying to get (the script for “Swingers”) done as a director, but the focus of making the movie wasn’t to become a filmmaker. It was to make people laugh and entertain people, but more to get a break as an actor–not just to work on a movie, but the idea of showcasing yourself in a way that people will want to fit you into their projects. That didn’t happen, though. It was always that I was the writer, and (co-star) Vince Vaughn was the actor. Granted, Vince is a much easier sell as an actor, and I’m a much easier sell as a writer, the way this town works. I’m not going to be taking any parts away from Tom Cruise; Vince might be. So a writing career kind of fell into my lap. I somehow became an approvable writer on all the lists of all the studios–which was resented by other writers. Laughs I’m always up for a challenge, so I would go after the opportunities that presented themselves to me. So I had to play a little bit of catch-up and learn how to write in that period of time.
So the first thing you wrote after “Swingers” was “The Marshal of Revelation,” a western about a Hasidic Jewish gunfighter? ^ I actually wrote “The Marshal of Revelation” while we were editing, before “Swingers” ever came out. I wanted to have the next one ready. I actually even wrote a sequel to “Swingers” while we were in the editing room.
And that will never see the light of day, of course. ^ No. Maybe as a script, but we’re not going to shoot it. It might be interesting to see the script of it, though. So maybe we’ll attach it to something, or I’ll post it, like in PDF format on the website. Maybe I’ll do that.
So “The Marshal of Revelation” never came about because of worries about its commercial prospects? ^ (The studio) definitely felt a limitation to the upside of what they can make commercially on it, moreso than it was a Hasidic Jewish gunfighter that it was a western. They can’t pre-sell westerns in foreign. Even a film like “Unforgiven,” that won Academy Awards, has a very difficult time commercially. It’s funny; I wrote it because when I was talking to Doug Liman on the set of “Swingers,” we were shooting so much at night on so much expensive film stock in low light levels, and he was like, “If you ever write another script, make it exterior day the whole movie.” So I was like, “A western — it would be cheaper to shoot.” Little did I know.
The project was parked at Miramax, right? ^ At first it was at Miramax, and we were getting into the logistics of what degree the creative control would be. On “Swingers,” we had final cut by default. The filmmakers controlled it because it was a negative pickup, and it was acquired after the fact, and it was the leverage of multiple invested parties that allowed us to maintain creative control over that. But typically, when a studio finances it, everybody wants a say, and Miramax is renowned for having a very strong creative voice in the filmmaking process. That wasn’t necessarily something I wanted for my first directing effort. But final cut is something that’s very difficult to get, so we were finding under what circumstances they would have final cut, and we started building in some language about how high it would test: if it tested over 60, they wouldn’t touch the cut. It was a negotiation between (Miramax co-chief) Harvey (Weinstein) and myself.
It’s interesting how Miramax has this image as being a “protector of the artist,” per se, and then they do something like they did on 54 which was heavily recut after bad test screenings. ^ Harvey’s always been very square and up front with me; I really have no complaints. I have him to thank for exposing the public to my movie. I would love to work with the guy again, but there are all sorts of relationships you can have with that studio. If you’re a filmmaker he holds in high esteem and values the relationship with, the relationship can be great. The flip side is, now here I am with Made, a film that’s getting very good notices, there’s an audience for it, and I’m at Artisan. They’re very limited in their ability to release a film; they release a film on a very small scale. It’s a very traditional platform where they start on literally three screens and platform out. If you ever run out of gas, that’s it. I’ve had that experience with Love & Sex at Lions Gate, where it just never brought in enough money to justify them investing anything else in it, so (the film) disappeared, only to appear on the shelves at Blockbuster weeks later. In the case of “Swingers,” there was an incredible amount of support (from Miramax). They even mounted a small Oscar campaign for us. They really know how to make a filmmaker feel appreciated when it comes to the amount of money and the amount of resources they commit to the marketing and promotion of the films. So Miramax is a wonderful place to do business if you’re in the right situation. Unfortunately, with my first film coming out, I probably just would not have that kind of leverage over there at that point. It was frightening to me.
Get the whole story in part three of MONEY MAN: JON FAVREAU GETS “MADE”>>>