In an interview with the Los Angeles Times this week, Harvey Weinstein hinted at the possibility of re-editing Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech to score a PG-13 rating (maybe even a PG) and, subsequently, a much larger, broader audience.
Weinstein was publicly upset in November when the MPAA slapped the film with an R rating due to a scene where the protagonist (played by Colin Firth) repeats the F-word and other expletives to quell his uncontrollable stutter. The battle was short-lived though, primarily because the Weinstein Company was busy battling the NC-17 rating levied against relationship drama Blue Valentine.
Weinstein cited box office numbers in Great Britain, where a 12-and-over rating has helped keep the movie, a historical drama about King George VI, on the top of the charts. “The British numbers are huge because the rating lets families see the movie together,” said Weinstein. “Tom and I are trying to find a unique way to do this that keeps his vision of the movie.” Of course, its success in the UK could just as easily be attributed to its local appeal, including a decidedly British story, a predominantly British-born cast and crew, a UK-based production, and a later release date as the word-of-mouth buzz about its quality grew more intense.
If he calls for the edit, a new, cleaner version wouldn’t hit theaters until after the February 27 Oscar ceremony, when the Weinstein Company plans to roll the film out to a surprising 3,000 screens, a more mainstream ad buy, and a strange Valentine’s Day push.
Naturally, the possibility of recutting the rather brilliant film for a more lenient rating has film purists outraged (and it should). However, what few, if any, movie pundits are talking about today is how this latest development is almost certainly one of Harvey Weinstein’s clever ploys for free publicity at a precise, crucial moment in the Oscar race.
For weeks, The Social Network has dominated the awards season, racking up critic association kudos and securing itself as the “movie to beat” in February. That is, until the past few days when The King’s Speech scored an upset at the Producers Guild Awards and lead the Academy Award nominations with 12, shifting the momentum exactly a week before the final ballots are mailed (on Feb. 2). Now Weinstein is deliberately mulling a bold, quasi-controversial move that launched a thousand headlines today. Ordinarily, the timing would seem coincidental at best, but this is Harvey Weinstein, the successful executive producer that Kevin Smith cited in his own dog and pony show this past Sunday.
Weinstein is masterful with Oscar campaigns, particularly the master strokes that positioned The English Patient to become a nine-time Academy Award winner and Shakespeare in Love to topple Saving Private Ryan for “Best Picture” two years later. Whether he’s championing the triumphant story of two fresh-faced screenwriters (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) or proclaiming the return of musicals (like six-time Oscar winner Chicago), clearly the man has a Midas touch when it comes to campaigns and manipulating the Academy. His lobbying breaks late and goes big, a cross-pollination strategy that simultaneously boosts box office returns and awards potential.
Will Weinstein re-edit the movie for a lower, more family-friendly rating? Perhaps. Especially if the movie takes the coveted top prize next month. But for now, it doesn’t matter. He succeeded already. People are talking about The King’s Speech on every film and Oscar blog this week, not The Social Network.