Brian De Palma, the writer/director of the controversial new film Redacted, opening Friday, took a few minutes to talk to Huffington Post the other day. As a member of the WGA, he certainly has the time, noting, "My pen is down. All pens down."
Redacted, which opens Friday, is inspired by the real-life rape and killing of an Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers and the murder of her family members.
The film has already been lauded in Europe, bashed in the US, and splashed across Drudge Report, a fact that doesn't surprise De Palma. "I would expect it, because the film shows an aspect of our troops that has not been shown before," he says. "You're going to get a very negative reaction from the right wing. I was more surprised that the film was accepted to every film festival. That's never happened for one of my films."
Not that De Palma's film fest debut was without controversy. At Redacted's Venice Film Festival premiere in August, the director insisted, "The pictures are what will stop the war. If we put these pictures in front of a mass audience, maybe we can stop the war." He also won the festival's award for Best Director.
In the months since De Palma made his opinions known, however, Redacted's ending has been very publicly --and against the directors will -- altered. While the original ending concluded with a montage of dead Iraqi soldiers, the film's distributor, Magnolia Pictures, has since blacked out the faces, citing potential liabilities as none of the dead signed releases. De Palma, Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles, and company owner Mark Cuban publicly sparred over the changed ending in October at the New York Film Festival, at which the redacted Redacted played.
"I fought this right up to the 9th hour," De Palma says. "That was the first time I actually saw [Bowles]. These people were never involved with the making of this at all. We made this film completely with my Canadian crew. I never saw any of them until then.
"[The studio] writes the releases for the pictures we had in the movie. They were well aware we were using this montage," says De Palma. "This montage is all over the internet. That's where I got the idea. This was not a surprise to them. If they had told me we'd need releases for all the war photos I would have recreated all of them, like I did the film. At the 9th hour someone looked and said 'oh my god'. The bottom line is they didn't want to be associated with the pictures. This is not a surprise."
De Palma also vented his displeasure with Mark Cuban. Cuban had claimed that De Palma could buy back the rights of the film and absorb the risk. But says De Palma, "Mark Cuban has never returned my phone calls and there was never an offer like that."
Redacted has brought the Scarface, Casualities of War and Bonfire of the Vanities director renewed attention from the media. Last month Bill O'Reilly called De Palma "a true villain in our country" and said the movie could lead to deaths of U.S. troops.
"That's how these people make a living," De Palma says in response. "They attack me one day and they attack someone else the next day. They just go into one of their right wing rants... They do this every day. This is people stirring the water and on to Lindsay Lohan or some other outrage. I wish it had some meaning."
As for the media, De Palma says, "I'm very disturbed that people try and scare us all the time. I'm tired of being frightened! Now it's the drumbeat to Iran. It never ends."
De Palma also expressed his disappointment with the media's coverage of recent war films, often with Monday morning stories of their box office woes and articles highlighting audience apathy like this, this, and this.
"They seem to relish it," he says. "They are so excited that meaningful movies about our foreign policy are not doing well. They were made with extreme difficulty and financed in weird and creative ways. All made because a movie star decided to push for something he cared about."
"They've been tranquilizing us for how many years? My movie - it costs so little to make it's paid for by the time it hits the screens. These movies were never meant to make hundreds of millions of dollars they were made because they felt strongly about the material. I hope people will join them and learn something."
Redacted premieres free tonight on HDNet and opens Friday.