When producer Arnon Milchan decided to make a screen version of “The Nutcracker” with Macaulay Culkin, little did he know how aptly the title would apply to Culkin’s father and manager, Kit.
A series of battles over the content of the picture has prompted the senior Culkin to deny Milchan’s New Regency permission to use his son’s likeness in advertising, and he has refused to let Macaulay take part in a publicity campaign for the film, according to sources.
This predicament developed after Milchan refused a demand by Culkin to reshoot a scene and remix footage in the movie, a $ 10 million co-production between New Regency and Elektra, to bereleased by Warner Bros. for Thanksgiving.
This followed a previous threat to withhold the “Home Alone” star’s marketing services unless a short narrative of the ballet taped by Kevin Kline was dropped, a demand Milchan met.
It also is the culmination of a struggle by Kit Culkin — who’s believed to have once danced in the ballet — to realize his cinematic vision of “The Nutcracker,” against the wishes of the filmmakers.
The screen version of the musical is a straight rendition of the George Ballanchine-choreographed Tchaikovsky score, as performed by the New York City Ballet under Peter Martins. The film is directed by Emile Ardolino.
Macaulay Culkin plays the role of the nutcracker prince, and though it doesn’t require dancing, his is a central role. The backstage bickering has been going on since the beginning of the shoot, according to sources.
It began when a proposal to bring the younger Culkin to Cannes for a splashy media announcement was scrapped, because, sources said, Kit Culkin never responded.
Then the producers, trying to beef up Culkin’s presence in the pic, wanted to shoot an introductory scene in which Culkin, after sitting down in the theater, becomes magically transformed into the drama. The elder Culkin nixed that, too.
But when Culkin then demanded that a scene be reshot and remixed, Milchan balked. An alternate ad campaign is being developed, without Macaulay Culkin’s likeness.
Ironically, this could hurt Culkin, since he deferred salary for gross participation from the first dollar, sources said.
It’s the second run-in with a Warner Bros.-distributed film this year. The studio earlier got so fed up with Kit Culkin’s unwillingness to approve a director for “Richie Rich,” that WB went elsewhere, scotching a guaranteed $8 million payday for Culkin, with the promise of $10 million if a sequel was made. There has been talk of a reconciliation, however.
WB wouldn’t comment, Milchan was out of the country, and Culkin’s agent, Sam Cohn, didn’t return phone calls.