How Did Robert Pattinson's New Film Avoid an R-Rating? The Director Explains
Passionate sex. Cigarette smoking. Gun violence. Fistfights. Frank dialogue. Adult themes. F-bombs. The "twist" ending (don't worry, no big spoilers here). Robert Pattinson's new film Remember Me plays out with all the salty, sultry vigor of the New York summer in which it's set. Yet somehow, director Allen Coulter and distributor Summit Entertainment trimmed and tucked enough of that vigor to avoid the R-rating that would keep the film from its Pattinson-rabid teenage fan base. It was a job that likely meant the difference between a $25 million and a $50 million opening or maybe even more -- not to mention one that, as Coulter told Movieline recently, he almost refused to do.
[Minor content spoilers do follow below]
"When I was informed that the project was PG-13, my first reaction was, 'Well, sayonara!'", Coulter explained during the film's press junket last month in New York. "I virtually quit at that point. I didn't know that until very late in the game. So my first reaction was, 'Forget it.' Then I was talked off the ledge."
"But ultimately he wound up making a unique film," said Will Fetters, the young screenwriter for whom Remember Me marks a feature debut. "It's an R-script. It's an adult-themed story that can be experienced by young people. There's nothing gratuitous. Allen said this before, but hopefully it's some of these young people's first experience with a 'adult' film. The ending makes it unique, but what I think is getting lost is that ultimately Allen crafted a film -- by getting in just under the line -- that a broader audience can and will experience. I think that's one of the elements that makes us more unique than if we had just gone for an 'R.'"
Nevertheless, the MPAA ratings board required some cuts. "For me," Coulter said, "that was very painful because one of the first things I said from the very beginning was that I wanted to make this true-to-life. And people in New York talk a certain way. Cops talk a certain way. I didn't want to have to done it down so much that it was just bullshit, frankly. So it was a little bit of a process. I can't really know what their reasoning was, but curiously we had more trouble with the sex, which struck me as odd, because it's not at all graphic."
"Well, it was intense," Fetters said.
"Intense" is a good word for it: Two scenes, one pulled out of the Fatal Attraction playbook of thrashing and groping in an apartment corridor, and the other just your standard 10 or 12 seconds of gorgeous celebrities in bed. Emilie de Ravin -- who plays Ally, the girlfriend of Pattinson's brooding loner Tyler -- is filmed mostly from the neck up, but in various other shots she's not wearing a top. Scandalous!
"Yeah, that was tough," Coulter continued. "They found the intensity of that too much. The curious note that I got was, 'Too much story.' Which strikes me as mind-boggling, because you'd think the opposite of that is to make it perfunctory and facile. Which would be exactly what you didn't want to do with a scene of sexuality -- instead of making it deep and meaningful and something to be admired. So that was tough."
Then there are the fights -- a big, fairly realistic-looking street brawl followed by more corridor intimacy, but, like, with fists. "With regard to the violence," Coulter said, "We had to tone it down a little bit. I would say it's a gritty PG-13, though. It just skated under the wire. And hats off to them for allowing us to be as gritty as we were; it may be because it was never easy or meant to be cool. All the violence is very real and at the same time has consequences. The sexual content -- albeit in my opinion tame -- is emotionally driven, and it's about the connection between two people."
Finally, Tyler smokes. A lot. But it might as well be an anti-tobacco commercial in parts, as Coulter agreed. "As far as smoking is concerned, everybody gives him a hard time about it," he said. "And eventually he says, 'This is the last one, I swear.' And you kind of feel like at that moment in the film, 'You know, he means it. He'll stop. Ally will rag on him until he stops.' So it was just on the thin edge of what was allowable. But I hope the reason was because of the sincerity of our purpose." Well, totally -- there's nothing insincere about trying for a number-one opening.