The troubled history of 'The Wolfman'
Two directors. Two endings. Reshoots. A spiraling budget. Five release dates. Just how did 'The Wolfman' get to our screens, asks Mark Salisbury
‘The Wolfman’ was initially to be directed by music video veteran Mark Romanek (‘One Hour Photo’) from a script by Andrew Kevin Walker (‘Se7en’) and David Self (‘Road to Perdition’). Sets were built at Pinewood for a February 2008 shoot, but Romanek quit four weeks before filming, citing creative differences. ‘It wasn’t coming together where we were all wanting to make the same film,’ he recalls. ‘I wasn’t able to bring to it what I thought I could. It’s a big investment, and a big project, and I felt they should have a director who’s more in line with what they want.’
‘That was a tough one, man,’ remembers Benicio Del Toro who’s also a producer on the film. ‘That was tough. He had his vision, and at some point we didn’t have the movie.’
As the studio scrambled to replace Romanek, various names were bandied about – John Landis, Frank Darabont and Martin Campbell among them – before Joe Johnston, director of ‘Jurassic Park III’ and ‘The Rocketeer’, was hired. But the clock was ticking. Filming was less than four weeks away. Johnston’s pitch to the studio had been that he could shoot the existing script in 80 days. He recalls: ‘One of the issues with the previous director was that he had said he needed another 20 days and that became one of the areas of disagreement that led to [the studio] looking for a new director. I told them I could do it. But after I was hired, we soon added about 17 pages back to the script, so that schedule no longer applied.’
Given the time constraints, there was only so much Johnston could do to make the movie his own. ‘The studio had invested a lot of money,’ he explains. ‘They had gone down a certain road with the production design and concept and I have to say in Mark Romanek’s defence, he made a lot of the correct choices. He had set the ship off in a good direction. But I wanted to put my stamp on the film. I did that with casting and with locations. We did a rewrite too. But it was not a situation where I wanted to throw everything out, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that anyway. I took over the wheel, took it in a slightly different direction.’
Shooting went ahead, and with the film due to be released in November 2008, Johnston visited that summer’s Comic-Con as part of the promotional build up. But then Universal postponed the movie until February 2009, then April, and then November. The delays did little to assuage the rumours that ‘The Wolfman’ was a movie in trouble – a perception seemingly underlined when Johnston undertook five weeks of reshoots last spring with acclaimed action director Vic Armstrong brought in to punch up the ending, making a costly movie even more expensive.
‘In the original script, there was a much longer sequence at the end and one in London where the Wolfman is loose,’ Johnston explains. ‘They were both cut to save money. We shot the film, put it together and it was immediately apparent why those sequences were in the story, and so we went back to shoot a bunch of new stuff for the end. We reshot other stuff as well. That has happened to me several times: you try and save money, and you say the movie will work without this, then you find something is lacking after you shoot, [and] you need to go back and do it.’
Johnston insists they didn’t shoot a new ending – rather they enhanced what was there. ‘There were two versions of the ending [that] involved the fate of the Wolfman,’ he recalls. ‘When we went back to shoot the new stuff, we enhanced one, because our suspicion was it was going to be the more dynamic ending. So we shot new stuff for that, the B version, which is now the version in the film.’ Two endings? ‘It was two versions of an ending,’ he clarifies. ‘One was where one character died, and in the other version, the other character died. After our first preview it was clear we wanted the ending to go one way. We extended it, made it more rewarding.’
The upshot of these reshoots was that the release date was moved to February 2010, although producer Scott Stuber told Aintitcoolnews that the latest delay was to finish off visual effects. Shortly after I spoke with Johnston late last year, stories hit the net that two new editors, including the Oscar-winning Walter Murch, had been drafted in to work on the film. Stuber claimed the movie was running long with all the extra footage and Johnston had wanted a ‘fresh perspective’. Even so, stories have continued to circulate, among them reports that Danny Elfman’s score was dumped for one by ex-Tangerine Dream member Paul Haslinger before that, in turn, was replaced by Elfman’s original. The first press screening of the film was finally taking place just as this issue of Time Out went to press (see review opposite), and since it’s being released this week, we’re pretty sure they’ve finished tinkering…
Author: Mark Salisbury
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’