TORONTO -- Bully director Lee Hirsch slammed the MPAA on Monday night for slapping an R rating on his film while it constantly gives PG ratings to studio pictures filled with gratuitous violence.
“I’m no expert on the MPAA, and there’s lots of big issues, but one thing I realized is there’s a great hypocrisy in allowing films that glorify -- and even sexify -- violence to get PG and PG-13 ratings time and time and time again,” Hirsch told a Toronto audience after the Canadian premiere of his film. "And for them to then bring down the hammer on a film like this, on behalf of family values, seems to me totally out of whack."
Hirsch insisted he never imagined Bully would receive an R rating when he was shooting it two years ago.
“Even beyond our premiere, I still hadn’t thought about the rating,” he said. "Then it came up that we might get an R (rating) because of language, and I thought, 'This is insane.' "
Then came an appeals process before the MPAA, where The Weinstein Co. co-chairman Harvey Weinstein appeared alongside Bully teen Alex Libby.
“Harvey said: ‘Lee, you’re going to sit this one out. I need Alex',” Hirsch recalled.
Weinstein failed to secure a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, but the director said Libby -- who as a 12 year-old endured the harrowing school bus scene in Bully whose harsh language led to the R-rating -- blossomed in his moment before the appeals tribunal in Los Angeles.
"He killed it,” an emotional Hirsch said of Libby. "We didn’t win. We lost by one vote. But he basically said in his statement what you’re effectively saying is I can’t see my own life."
Bully was released unrated Friday in Los Angeles and New York. By contrast, Alliance Films will release Bully in Canada on April 6 with a favorable PG rating.
“Look, I can tell you that in the midst of the battle, we’d get calls from our team in Canada saying, 'You’re not going to believe this, but B.C. just gave us a PG,' and we would just cheer because it gave us the strength to keep fighting,” the director said Monday night.
Bully earned $115,000 playing in five theaters in Los Angeles and New York, for a strong per-location average of $23,000 -- the best of the weekend.