SXSW: Todd Phillips Lambastes Warner Bros. Over Hangover Uncut Edits: 'That Won't Happen Again'
In conversation with Movieline's Elvis Mitchell Friday at SXSW, director Todd Phillips talked all things Todd Phillips: His fascination with awkward male relationships, the status of The Hangover 2, how heartbroken he was when his HBO documentary Frat House was shelved by a lawsuit, and wise words he once received from James Cameron. And somewhere between sharing revelations from Due Date (a test of how forgiving an audience could be of Robert Downey Jr.) and expressing love for both Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen (they're both "my boys"), Phillips accused Warner Bros. of violating DGA rules in the name of milking the home-video market.
Phillips's beef lies with the widespread practice of selling unrated cuts of films on DVD, a marketing move that yielded an overly expository, seven minutes-longer cut of The Hangover and, he says, violates Director's Guild rules.
"That's something I have to take up with the DGA," Phillips told a near-capacity audience at the Austin Convention Center. "Warner Bros., they'll make your movie; your movie does well, and they want to create an unrated version, which is entirely against DGA rules because it's not your cut. And they can't call it the 'Director's Cut' -- they'll call it 'Unrated' or some ridiculous term. Really all it is, is about seven minutes of footage that you cut out of the movie for a reason."
"That won't happen on Hangover 2," he added. "The truth is that the unrated DVD, I probably could have killed, and they explained to me why they wanted to do it and what it meant as a marketing device. The fact that it ended up on HBO... was an incredibly large f*ck-up. That shouldn't have happened. So that's not going to happen again."
Other tales Phillips shared with the SXSW audience:
· Hangover 2 is finished, has test-screened, and will be shown to the studio this week with a trailer to come in a few weeks.
· His 1998 Sundance award-winning documentary Frat House was originally intended to be three films, but lawsuits curtailed its broadcast on HBO after its college-aged subjects sued and the film hasn't been released to date. Phillips admitted that he and co-director Andrew Gurland obtained their subjects' release form signatures while many of them were inebriated ("It turns out that's illegal") although he maintains that none of the footage was staged.
· Phillips loves uncomfortable moments ("I wish I could live in them") and the awkwardness of male relationships. He's asked frequently why he doesn't make films with many women in them; his response: His stories take place "out of earshot of females."
· Upon meeting James Cameron, Phillips received the following wisdom: "You enter this business with what you're going to be in this business." Phillips links his documentary film beginnings with his desire to create comedy grounded in reality.
· When casting for Old School, Phillips met studio resistance to a key cast member. "DreamWorks did not want Vince Vaughn in Old School," Phillips said. "They just didn't see him as a comedy actor."
· Phillips has the same words for Charlie Sheen (who had a cameo in Due Date) as he does for Mel Gibson (who almost had a cameo in Hangover 2): "That's my boy. I love him."
· On the recurring character he plays in his own films, Barry: "I like being the sleaziest character in my movies." The Phillips movie universe is linked by Juliette Lewis's character Heidi, whose children in Due Date were fathered by Will Ferrell in Old School. "Barry's a sex offender," Phillips says, but he won't make an appearance in Hangover 2. "He couldn't get a passport to Bangkok."
[Photo: Getty Images]