The film, about the competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, was originally set to be distributed by the Weinstein Company after Harvey Weinstein recut it, much to Gomez-Rejon’s chagrin. To make matters worse, Weinstein premiered the movie at the Toronto Film Festival in 2017.
“It was incredibly painful,” Gomez-Rejon tells Variety. “Because you go up on stage and you’re representing the cast and crew who took this journey with you, and you know deep down in your heart that you haven’t been allowed to give your best. Or you give your best under those conditions and it’s not good enough.”
The film was almost shelved when the Weinstein Company shuttered following sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein.
But on Monday night in New York City at AMC Lincoln Square, Gomez-Rejon premiered “The Current War: Director’s Cut.” “I wasn’t sure the film would ever come out, which was heartbreaking,” the film’s screenwriter Michael Mitnik said.
Gomez-Rejon said the film was saved with the help of his mentor Martin Scorsese. “He agreed to be [a producer] just as a safety net. God forbid that the worst would happen, he’d be there as a safety net, and if the final cut wouldn’t go to me, then he would have the final say,” Gomez-Rejon explained. “And then the worst happened. Literally, the absolutely worst happened, and he was there to save the day, and he got the final cut. And anyone who wasn’t Marty might have gone and recut the movie; [but] what he did was hand the movie to me and let me make the movie I intended to make.”
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“The Current War: Director’s Cut” is 10 minutes shorter than the original and features five new scenes, an updated score and a host of narrative recalibration.
“Everything from the pacing, to the dialogue, to the story, to the way it’s supposed to feel is, in my opinion, a markedly different movie,” Mitnik added.
According to Gomez-Rejon, the most important edit has been a reworking of Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Edison, whose fierce fight against Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) to ensure the supremacy of DC electric power was softened in Weinstein’s cut.
“I unapologetically let Benedict’s portrayal of Edison go to the dark side, instead of trying to make him likable,” Gomez-Rejon said. “I think you have to trust an audience. And because we let him do that, his portrayal juxtaposed with the work that Michael Shannon does, builds authentic tension. Now you have a movie that’s worthy of that title.”