Producer-Director Herbert B. Leonard had just turned in the finished version of his movie Going Home to MGM. Arriving for a scheduled meeting with MGM President James Aubrey, he was told that Aubrey was busy recutting a new film and could not be disturbed. "What movie is he recutting?" Leonard asked. "Yours," came the reply.
In Hollywood, it was nothing new for a studio boss to fiddle with a director's efforts. What was unusual was that Leonard, unlike the sometimes helplessly subordinate directors of old, protested loudly and publicly. In the version of Going Home that was recently released, starring Robert Mitchum, Aubrey carved out 21 minutes of graphic footage to obtain a GP (instead of an R) rating. Some of his deletions toned down a rape scene, but when Leonard saw the result he charged: "He unilaterally and arbitrarily raped the picture."
Besides Leonard, a clutch of film makers are complaining about Aubrey's cutting-room tacticsand in some cases going to courtin what amounts to the biggest uprising against a major studio that Hollywood veterans can recall. Items:
> Producer Michael S. Laughlin and Director Paul Magwood placed a black-bordered ad in the Hollywood Reporter a few weeks ago that said: "Regarding what was our film Chandler, let's give credit where credit is due. We sadly acknowledge that all editing, post-production as well as additional scenes were executed by James T. Aubrey Jr. We are sorry." Laughlin and Magwood claim that Magwood was locked out of the MGM cutting room, and that Aubrey inserted several minutes of new footage to simplify the plot and replaced their nostalgic score with a trendy one. The result, says Laughlin, is "a completely different movie" from the 1940s-type private-eye flick that he set out to produce, starring his wife Leslie Caron and Warren Gates. He and Magwood have started legal action to have Chandler withdrawn from distribution.
> Producer Bruce Geller (TV's Mission: Impossible) has asked to have his name removed from the credits of his first film, Corky, which is soon to be released (directed by Leonard Home). Geller says Aubrey's changes made the central character, a violent garage mechanic, too sympathetic, played down the picture's redneck setting and eliminated a climactic murder scene. Says he: "It's not my picture any more." > Director Blake Edwards (Pink Panther, Darling Lili) has stopped post-production work on his film A Case of Need, and instructed his lawyers to file a breach of contract suit against Aubrey. The studio chief, says Edwards, reneged on promised script changes to enhance the love interest between Stars James Coburn and Jennifer O'Neill, cut Edwards' location shooting unreasonably short, and set an April release date for the film that made it impossible for Edwards to edit it properly.