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Warner Shuns Polemics in ‘Three Kings' Release

14 Sep, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Warner Home Video's decision to jettison controversial bonus material from the DVD re-release of Three Kings has less to do with politics than with customer satisfaction, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Director David O. Russell had been commissioned to create a $180,000 special companion vignette to the scheduled first-quarter 2005 release of his critically acclaimed 1999 film that starred George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube as three U.S. soldiers caught up in the search for gold during the Gulf War.

The film was released on DVD in April 2000 and featured audio commentary from Russell, three behind-the-scenes documentaries, a video diary, an interview with the director of photography, a still gallery and an interactive game.

The new bonus feature was intended to look back and see what happened to several Iraqi nationals who had appeared in or consulted on the original film.

“One had actually met Saddam Hussein, one had been tortured; all have immigrated to the United States,” said a source familiar with the project.

The studio got spooked when an account of the material appeared in the The New York Times last month that outlined a treatment that was not only anti-war, it was “anti a lot of things,” the same source said.

After checking with the Federal Election Commission and the company's own internal policies, Warner executives considered the material problematic, but not offensive.

In the end, Warner executives passed on including the material on a film that already carries a strong message and didn't require further politicization.

“It was not what we expected, and once we saw it, we felt it was not appropriate to be attached to our movie as bonus material,” said a Warner spokesperson.

She said the studio has allowed Russell to keep the material without charge and seek independent distribution.

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