The Lion’s Pack Roars

Across the Universe is undoubtedly the most extraordinary film I have had the chance to edit in my 20-plus years as a film editor. The film is entertaining, full of invention and spectacle, and, I believe, appealing to people of all ages. For that reason, and because of numerous inaccuracies written within, I disagree with Nikki Finke’s column about the film [“Across an Alternate Universe,” April 13–19].

Although Nikki Finke is entitled to her opinion (has she seen the film?), it is ill informed, and many of her facts are wrong. All versions (Julie Taymor’s three tests and Joe Roth’s one test) of Across the Universe have tested well. (See aintitcoolnews.com reviews from two different Taymor test screenings.) I have attended every screening and observed the audiences’ reaction, which consistently ranges from tears to laughter to applause. A film can be too long at 90 minutes if the content is not there. However, when the content is there, the length becomes irrelevant. That said, Julie’s last tested cut ran 128 minutes, and we are still trying to find cuts without hurting the music and the story. As a reminder, the average running time of the 2006 five Best Picture nominees was 127 minutes.

In Hollywood, editing a film is an art and it is a business. A film that costs any significant amount of money often goes through this painful process of art vs. commerce, sometimes for the worse. Unfortunately, when the process is exposed by the press, it casts a shadow upon the film undeservedly. Finke is ultimately an outsider who spoke to very few (if any) knowledgeable people involved with this process. Finke did not attempt to contact anyone on Julie’s behalf with questions or to verify facts. Rather, her goal it seems was to create controversy.

No doubt, I am close to this film and to Julie. I have edited all three of her films. Since 1998 she has become a dear friend, and, not being masochistic, I could not have worked with her if she was “hysterical.” She is the most creative director with whom I have worked; she is a passionate and visionary artist. And although she is demanding of her collaborators, that drive for excellence only serves to enhance the creativity in all of us. It is why we keep coming back.

Soon the film will be released, and audiences around the world will be amazed by Julie’s vision, just as they have been with The Lion King, and you will wonder why Nikki Finke wrote this ridiculous article.

Francoise Bonnot

In 1995, when Peter Schneider and I were charged with producing The Lion King for Broadway, we knew we needed a brilliant idea. Easier said than done. It was at that time I called Julie Taymor, with whom I had wanted to work for over 10 years.

Since that time Julie and I have pursued future stage projects — some discussed in public forums and some not. We’ve in fact funded the development of a project that is currently only on hold due to her immensely busy schedule with film, opera, the much-discussed Spider Man project and her ongoing commitments to The Lion King.

For Nikki Finke to suggest that my deep and profound personal and professional relationship with Julie is anything other than excellent is absurd. How ironic that a publication that just this week received a Pulitzer Prize would still feel the need to trade in high school–level gossip and innuendo — particularly about one of the greatest artists of our time.

Thomas Schumacher
New York, New York

Nikki Finke responds:
I phoned Schumacher’s office to talk, and he had weeks to get back to me and never did. Besides, Disney has a history of persecuting journalists, myself included. So shut up, already. As for Bonnot, of course the film editor sees everything from Taymor’s POV; a big part of Bonnot’s earnings come from Taymor, clearly. That said, no one but Bonnot and Schumacher has disputed any of the reporting in my column. There’s a reason for that: It’s all true.

Winning Ways

Weekly contributors have gotten their share of good news lately:

• Columnist Nikki Finke received a third-place award for General Interest Column Writing in the Best of the West 2007 newspaper contest.

• Sam Slovick is a finalist for a Harry Chapin Media Award for his story on teenagers living on Skid Row. Winners will be announced June 7.

• Naomi Hirahara, whose short story “Number 19” we published on April 11, was just named winner of the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best paperback original for her latest novel, Snakeskin Shamisen.

• Longtime Weekly writer Ann Haskins received a Lester Horton Award for “Furthering the Visibility of Dance.”

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