Short Cuts

Robert Rodriguez vs. the DGA and Paramount

El Hooligan y la Princesa Dept.: Robert Rodriguez's mid-March resignation from the Directors Guild of America is generating seismic repercussions, rumors, and rampant speculation in the Austin film community and pretty much everywhere else, and not just because, as one member of the city's thick-as-thieves film community notes, "It looks like he's throwing a tantrum that he doesn't need to throw." The resignation, first reported in the March 19 edition of industry bible Variety, came after the director was informed by the DGA that he would not be able to share directing credits on his upcoming adaptation of graphic novelist Frank Miller's neo-noir bloodbath masterpiece Sin City with Miller, whom Rodriguez had pointedly said he wanted to bring onboard in a shared-directorial capacity. (Rumors of also enlisting indie godhead Quentin Tarantino for similar duties have also been mentioned.) As per DGA rules, however, shared directorial credits are only allowed in special cases (such as brothers Joel and Ethan Coen), which rarely arise. Currently in preproduction at Austin Studios, the Miramax/Dimension Sin City remains a go, but because Rodriguez is out of the DGA – and has publicly and repeatedly stated he has no intention of re-enlisting – it appears that his recently announced adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars for Paramount is dead in the water, at least in Austin, since Paramount, being a DGA-endorsed film studio, is barred from working with non-DGA directors. That might not have been such a big deal if it hadn't been for the Titanic-sized nature of the project, which would have been the biggest Austin has ever seen, with a reported budget in excess of $100 million and a flood of incoming industry and infrastructure jobs attached. "The idea was that Princess would do for Austin what The Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand," says a source close to the project (who, like everyone "Short Cuts" spoke to, spoke on condition of anonymity), noting that the Burroughs series runs to 12 volumes over J.R.R. Tolkien's measly three. "There was a lot of talk about sinking some serious money into a permanent state-of-the-art digital effects and postproduction facility here in Austin," along the lines of Peter Jackson's WETA and George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and Industrial Light & Magic, the source said, adding, "It would have been a tremendous opportunity for the city." Paramount, for its part, has been reported in Variety as being "in discussions with Mr. Rodriguez and ... trying to come up with a solution." As for Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, co-producer for the Austin-based A Princess of Mars and the man who originally brought the idea of adapting the Burroughs series to Rodriguez, his status on the project is also unknown. Both Knowles and the Rodriguez camp had no comment on the situation. The big question now is whether Rodriguez and/or Knowles will be able to take the project to both another studio and another location. More than one local member of the Austin film community used the term "career suicide" when talking about Rodriguez's DGA dustup and expressed the opinion that "no major studio is going to risk working with him after this [other than Miramax/Dimension]." Of course, with Rodriguez's legendary ingenuity, creativity, speed, and thrift, he may not even require a major studio behind him to complete the projects he's interested in initiating. And despite the chaos surrounding his exit from the DGA and the questionable future of Princess, everyone "Short Cuts" spoke with expressed continued admiration for the maverick filmmaker despite the current contretemps. A Princess of Mars might be dead, but Rodriguez's homegrown Troublemaker Studios outside of Austin, after all, is just being born. That's the Austin film community, though: never a dull moment. Next week: Drop Dead Sexy (almost) drops dead.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Robert Rodriguez, Paramount, Harry Knowles, Peter Jackson, J.R.R. Tolkien, George Lucas, Edgar Rice Burroughs, FrankMiller, Quentin Tarantino, A Princess of Mars, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

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