This story first appeared in the August 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
With a number of troubled big-budget movies having been pushed off their release dates this year for what executives called minimal "reshoots," some industry insiders think studios might be bandying about the term too loosely.
"I think it's a misnomer," says a prominent producer. "It's additional shooting. They are actually coming up with brand-new scenes, and that's happening a lot." A former studio chief concurs: "Reshoots are routine for nine out of 10 movies, but reshoots to pick up some shots are different from doing multiple weeks to fix a movie."
Industry sources cite two high-profile projects as examples of the latter: Universal's 47 Ronin, a period samurai film starring Keanu Reeves, and World War Z, a Paramount zombie movie with Brad Pitt, which were both moved to 2013. Studio sources are adamant that Ronin will have one week of additional work, but others with ties to the project expect it to be much more. In the case of the Marc Forster-helmed World War Z, new writers were called in to craft an entire third act. Other films that have been pushed include Paramount's G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Hansel and Gretel. Disney's Oz: The Great and Powerful is still on track for a March 8 release but recently completed 13 days of reshoots.
When do reshoots indicate a fundamental problem? Veteran producers agree that on a big-budget project, a week or even two is reasonable. Beyond that, the likelihood is the production needs a significant rework. One veteran of big-effects films says the recent rash of movies needing additional reshoots might result from studios engaging in a "false economy" by hiring directors who lack experience with effects and action. "The big studios take a $100 million, $200 million movie and put it in the hands of somebody who's never done it before, and that's asking for trouble," he says.
That was the case with Ronin. Universal went with first-time director Carl Rinsch, and trouble quickly followed. Sources confirm the studio was aware during principal photography that Rinsch hadn't done a satisfactory job with a key battle sequence at the film's end. A closely supervised Rinsch will now shoot that sequence along with other material to bolster Reeves as the hero and enhance the romance.
On World War Z, writer Damon Lindelof was brought in to do a third act, but after figuring out how much additional work was needed, he handed the project off to collaborator Drew Goddard. Sources say Paramount execs only had 52 minutes of continuous footage cut together to show them, along with a few minutes of other action. The film is said to be gearing up for a seven-week reshoot in London.
One former studio chief says it's tough to "throw good money after bad" in an attempt to salvage a troubled film. But others point to The Bourne Identity, which became a big hit despite drastic reshoots before its 2002 release.
Among the current crop, industry observers are giving the benefit of the doubt to Disney's $200 million-plus Oz because it comes from seasoned producer Joe Roth and director Sam Raimi, who has the Spider-Man franchise under his belt. That film completed 13 days of reshooting in early August; Roth says the film needed "substantial" work to fix a talking monkey that only started to speak at the midway point, which confused test audiences. "We thought the joke would work, and we were wrong," he says. "We had to go back and have all the main characters who are interacting with the monkey reshoot."
Despite the risks, producer Jerry Bruckheimer says the situation isn't always as bad as it might seem. He has built as much as $2 million into budgets to cover reshoots but estimates his longest redo was about 10 additional days on 1995's Dangerous Minds: "If you have to go back for a month, there might be issues, but that doesn't mean you can't fix them."