Spielberg, Malaysia censors at odds over cuts

SYDNEY — Echoing the dispute over “Schindler’s List” four years ago, Steven Spielberg is at loggerheads with the film censorship board in Malaysia, this time over “Saving Private Ryan.”

The censors ordered a number of cuts — believed to be nine — to eliminate some of the most violent scenes in the World War II epic.

The director has refused, resulting in an apparent stalemate which has forced distrib United Intl. Pictures to postpone the release, which was skedded for this week.

“The release has been delayed until the censorship issue has been resolved,” a UIP spokesman in London confirmed to Daily Variety.

The case evokes memories of “Schindler’s List,” which was originally banned in Malaysia in 1994. After UIP appealed, the Malaysian Cabinet overturned the ban, but the censorship appeal committee insisted on seven cuts amounting to nearly five minutes, taking out sex and full frontal nudity scenes.

Spielberg stood firm, refusing to touch the film, and it was never released theatrically in Malaysia. Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment subsequently announced it would withdraw all its films from distribution in the country.

To some observers, the censors’ stand smacks of hypocrisy, since pirated video compact disc copies of “Private Ryan,” uncut, have been widely available at street markets in Kuala Lumpur for several weeks.

The Malaysian censors are widely regarded as the most conservative in Southeast Asia. The board recently snipped 35 scenes from “There’s Something About Mary” and banned vampire thriller “Blade.”

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