Ridley Scott Screens Extended 'Gangster' Cut21 Feb, 2008 By: Billy Gil
Director Ridley Scott is known as the father of the director's cut. His 1982 film Blade Runner was recently released by Warner Home Video in a myriad of versions with multiple cuts, including a one previously unseen by audiences.
So it should come as no surprise that his latest film to hit theaters, American Gangster, would come with a director's cut as well. A two-disc unrated extended edition DVD, a three-disc collector's edition DVD and an HD DVD/DVD Combo version of American Gangster hit streets last week from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
The $29.98 two-disc set has both the unrated, extended version with more than 18 additional minutes added into the film (racking the running time up to 2 hours and 58 minutes) and an alternate ending, in addition to the original theatrical film. The theatrical version of the film has a commentary with Scott and writer Steven Zaillian. The second disc has deleted scenes and eight behind-the-scenes and making-of featurettes.
The $34.98 collector's edition, which is available for a limited time, has a third disc with a featurette on rappers Common and Tip “T.I.” Harris discussing their roles, music videos from Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah, a 32-page collectible booklet and a digital copy of the unrated version.
During a Q&A session following a Feb. 19 screening of the unrated, extended version at The Landmark Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles, Scott revealed that despite his films' success, he can't help tinkering with them once they're finished.
“I think, as a director, I can never get it right in the editing room,” Scott said. “It's basically got to be torn away from me.”
Scott also called himself a “commercial bastard,” saying that screening movies is part of the process of filmmaking. When screening American Gangster, based on the true story of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), who used the military presence in Vietnam in the 1970s to transport high-grade heroin from Asia to the United States and put out his competitors in the drug trade of Harlem in New York, Scott said they received very high marks from the audience — an 86 out of 100, which is rarely received for an ‘R'-rated film, Scott said. It wasn't enough.
“The temptation was to leave it alone — that's the film you saw tonight,” Scott said. “And then we got greedy and thought, you know, I wonder if we could push it past 90.”
Scott changed the film, whittling it down to 2 hours and 27 minutes and changing the ending. When the film re-screened, the rating jumped to 92. In the extended cut's ending, Lucas is seen with Russell Crowe's Detective Richie Roberts, the man who put him behind bars, as the two walk away discussing the new era after Lucas's 15-year prison sentence. Scott preferred this ending, but changed it to something more ambiguous when someone brought up that the original ending was somewhat depressing.
“When Denzel Washington steps outside the prison and looks around, the film ends … and you leave the rest to your imagination,” Scott said, describing the new ending.
Scott said that while he's not completely beholden to film tests, he realizes it's important to give audiences — and the studios — what they're looking for.
“If [studios are] going to put down that kind of money for me to make my movie, I gotta respect what they want afterwards,” he said.
Other than to release the film he originally made, there was another reason for releasing an unrated, extended cut of American Gangster right off the bat: Before the film even hit theaters, it had already hit the Web.
“Of course, I went mad and called Universal,” Scott said of the pirated copies. “They were in shock. We had already been pirated everywhere.
“…The pirated copies were good — good enough. …The extended version is probably better for DVD … and therefore it gives it a nice way of gaining advantage over all those thieves.”
Scott said it's also an easier experience watching an extended cut of a film on disc, rather than at the theaters.
“At home you've got a disc. …You have a different [mindset], you're much more relaxed … and therefore you're more patient,” Scott said. “…You can get up, freeze it, get a can of beer and come back.”