It has been nearly six years since principal photography ended on Kenneth Lonergan’s sophomore film as a director, Margaret. Since then the film has been tied up in an epic struggle between the director, who has final cut on the project, the studio and the producers in a tangled web of accusations and lawsuits. But all of that seems to be safely in the past as Lionsgate has announced that the film will finally be released on September 30.
The film stars Anna Paquin as a New York City high school student who may have had some complicity in causing a bus accident. Also in the cast are Matt Damon as one of Paquin’s high school teachers with whom her sexually precocious character flirts, J. Smith-Cameron as her mother who is more concerned with her acting career than her daughter, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, Jean Reno, Olivia Thirlby and Kieran Culkin.
The long saga that has kept Margaret from theaters begins right after the film wrapped production at the end of 2005. Lonergan’s contract gave him final cut on the film and as long as he could turn it at a running time of 150 minutes or less, no one else could dictate any edits to the film. Month after month dragged on while Lonergan tried to wrestle his footage into a film he liked. Scott Rudin, Sydney Pollack and Thelma Schoonmaker were all recruited to offer the director some advice and all three’s suggestions were ignored. More recently, Martin Scorsese stepped in to offer Lonergan some help in finishing the film. After Lionsgate refused to fund any more post-production, producer Gary Gilbert stated he would foot the bill and reported Lonergan turned to his friend Matthew Broderick for a $1 million loan. Even after the film’s completion bond company stepped in, a finished product could not be secured.
Eventually, everything devolved into a series of lawsuits and counter-suits between distributor Fox Searchlight, Gilbert and Lonergan. Some form of resolution must have been reached for the film to finally be seeing the light of a projector bulb.
As to whether the film is ultimately worth all of this fuss is a question that will be answered in just under two months.