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James Gray Discusses ‘Ad Astra,’ Cannes, Harvey Weinstein

While at Marrakech Film Festival to preside the jury, James Gray talked about his next film, “Ad Astra,” and shared thoughts on festivals, Netflix and Harvey Weinstein, among other topics.

Gray said he was in the middle of the editing process on “Ad Astra,” a science-fiction film with Brad Pitt, with more than 600 shots to review. “We’re far from finished,” said Gray.

The director pointed out the film was initially scheduled for a release in January and is now set for a May 21 bow.

“I’ve been very insistent because I didn’t want to be up against a release date,” said Gray, who added that he was aware of the fact that “science fiction films (often) have a number of shots that don’t look very good.” He said Pitt was great in the film and “has put a lot of personal commitment” into the movie.

The current release date of “Ad Astra” hints to a world premiere at Cannes Film Festival, which would mark Gray’s return to the Croisette after “The Immigrant,” which premiered in competition there in 2013 and got panned by critics.

Gray said he had an issue with festivals in general, and Cannes critics in particular. “The critical establishment (of Cannes) is stuck in 1968. (…) They are protectors of the status quo,” said the helmer, who joked that movies have to be shot with hand-held camera to be well-reviewed in Cannes.

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“‘The Immigrant’ was different from the all the other movies in competition that year. I’m not saying ‘The Immigrant’ is good, but it was me trying to do Puccini in a field where they were all trying to still do 1968,” said Gray.

“I think people mistake form for content.(…) That’s a problem with these festivals. They want something on a surface taking big risks,” added the filmmaker.

Gray also reacted to the fact that Martin Scorsese chose to work with Netflix on “The Irishman.” “Filmmakers are hostages of the situation. I don’t blame (Scorsese) at all. I would do it in a second if (Netflix) gave me the money,” said Gray.

The helmer reminisced about his notorious fight with Harvey Weinstein over the editing of “The Immigrant.”

“He wanted me to change the ending and fought me hard for it,” said Gray, who then reenacted one of the fight scenes with a stunning Harvey Weinstein impersonation.

Reflecting on the fact that it looks like Weinstein’s career is over, Gray said: “It’s a huge weight that has been lifted. Everybody knows what I was talking about for 20 years.”

Gray has been at Marrakech Film Festival twice before. He was part of John Boorman’s jury in 2013. His jury this year comprises Dakota Johnson (“Suspiria”) and Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”), among others. The 17th edition of the festival wraps Dec.8.

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