Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video The MPAA and ratings, part of 2011 SBIFF Producers' Panel: Movers and Shakers.
Patrick Goldstein: So I want to put you on the spot, because I read the other day that Harvey Weinstein, who is distributing the film and helping bring it to a wider audience, he has been--I think he sort of floated a trial balloon talking about cutting the now legendary moment where the king curses. As a way to get him through his stutter, he starts rattling off a whole list of obscenities, and that is the one moment in this otherwise very traditional film that earned it an R rating, and there's been a lot of hubbub about the unfairness of that.
So Harvey is talking about cutting that to get a PG-13 to find a broader audience, and I assume your director, Tom Hooper, will have to weigh in on this, but I'd like to know what do you think. Iain Canning: I love the "cut," such a dramatic word in that sense. We did--we have all been involved in the conversations. We just feel that we want as many people to see the film as possible. Certainly in the UK it is widening out in terms of the audience for our film. So it is frustrating. We knew going into it that we were always going to have that scene.
It's absolutely a part of how David, the writer, got through his own stammer and how he found a breakthrough. There is no cutting. We are looking at whether we could possibly do a bleep scenario where we would keep the essence of that scene but we wouldn't actually hear the words. We are just trying to find ways, but there is going to be no dramatic cut of that sequence. Patrick: Jamie, you're the producer of Blue Valentine, another film that was initially *&^@#$ over by the MPAA.
Jamie Patricof: I am glad you said that, not me. Patrick: Okay, now we are an officially R-rated panel. Patrick: Now, they had given you an NC-17 rating, and you appealed, and it was indeed overturned, and you won and you got an R rating. But having gone through that process, I'm curious, from your point of view, I know some people would say the MPAA is looking out for the interests of parents, but other people I think see them as self-appointed censors.
Where do you stand? Jamie: Having two kids who are four-and-a- half and two-and-a-half, I think it's important to have an organization that, in theory, is out there and rating films and helping us understand what's coming out in the form of media, whether it's television or film, online content. There is so much content now that we have access to. But at the same time, we were blown away by the NC-17 rating. It was such a shock to us. We actually--since it's in the past, we used to sort of--when Derek Cianfrance, the director who was making the film, it was very important that Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams understood that they had to sort of give a very naked performance, both in the literal and the physical.
When we finally got through the whole film and we were watching the film, we used to sort of make jokes that we made a PG-13 film, because there is very limited nudity, there is very limited cursing. There is no drug use. There is limited drinking. All the things as a parent that I would be worried about my children having access to at a young age weren't really in there. So when that rating came out, it was just a complete shock, and it was hurtful. It was sort of offensive that this organization would treat the film that way.
But fortunately, Harvey supported us in keeping the film exactly the way it was. I think maybe the most frustrating part is we went back and we appealed, and we were the first film to ever have a unanimous overturned rating and without making a change to the film. We didn't make one change to the film. So there is obviously a disconnect in this organization, because--I mean you probably know more about the MPAA than I do--but because of the way that it's set up, you have one group that rates the film and you have another group that sits on the appeals commission.
They're different people. So if the group that rated it said it was NC-17, and the group that we appealed to unanimously thought it wasn't NC-17, there is obviously a disconnect going on there. So in theory, I think the MPAA is important. I think what they do is great, but I think they just sort of need to figure out a better set of guidelines, or be a little more open to what is in different rating classes. I think, what The King's Speech had to deal with is just is as frustrating, I mean more frustrating, because again the whole--I understand Blue Valentine really gets to you.
Derek always said, it's not what you see, it's what you feel that's really the rating. I think The King's Speech has one scene that automatically makes it an R film, which just makes no sense. Iain: The UK can managed to get around it by putting some sort of tag on the posters that said, "Film contains swearing in a speech-therapy context." (laughter) Patrick: Some of the R films on this panel I know got an R rating for depicting drug use, which definitely is a clear-cut ratings no-no.
Mike De Luca, producer of The Social Network, how did you--there is a party scene in The Social Network that I would've thought would've gotten you an R rating, where it pretty clearly portrays drug use. How did you get around that? Mike De Luca: Look, I don't know how the MPAA works either, but if I had a conjecture, my one experience with the MPAA on the front lines was Boogie Nights when I was at New Line, and that was a whole different kettle of fish because we were trying to get an R after like 11 submissions and getting an NC-17.
So what I learned from that process is sometimes while there is the suggested presence of narcotics in that scene, there's no actual use, the way with sometimes where the simulated sex scene if the bodies are moving, they get a little wiggy. If they're not moving, they get less wiggy. It's weird, but I think a lot of that comes into play. And that's how we got it. I think that's how they interpreted the scene in Social Network, because we got the PG-13 rating. Patrick: Jamie, that reminds me--I don't want to get too taudry here, but it does tell us the way that the MPAA mindset works.
Someone who runs a studio told me, seemingly very authoritatively, that part of the problem with your oral sex scene was the motion of the oral sex was up and down instead of sideways. (laughter) Todd Lieberman: Because normal oral sex is? Jamie Patricof: It's way too early for a question like this. Patrick: I could not make that up. Todd: It makes sense. Patrick: Is there any truth to that? Jamie: That's the first time I am hearing of this, but we'll go re-cut it and see what happens.
I think you made a good point, though. I mean, I have had conversations. We never, we didn't have a dialog with the MPAA. There was no dialog to be had. I think the independent films, they sort of just--here is your rating and that's it. I think, in this form of studios, I think you a lot more, for whatever reason, there is a lot more dialog going on. Again, I don't know why exactly, but that was, again--I still don't know for a fact what was the NC-17 scene.
Again, what we were told was the oral sex scene. It's sort of from--it was like a game of telephone. But again, when you look at--again, it's an odd thing, because the ratings board overturned it so unanimously, it doesn't really makes any sense. But I guess now next time I have a film with an oral sex scene, we will try the side-to-side versus the up-and-down, and I will let you know. We will come back here and discuss it.
Moderated by Patrick Goldstein from the Los Angeles Times, these six producers cover many topics not often discussed in the entertainment press. The struggle to get a picture funded, ratings battles with Motion Picture Association of America, where the lines are drawn making a dramatic film based on a real life event, and working with a difficult director. They offer amazing stories of perseverance and triumph.
This panel includes Darla K. Anderson (Toy Story 3), Iain Canning (The King’s Speech), Alix Madigan (Winter’s Bone), Todd Lieberman (The Fighter), Mike Deluca (The Social Network), and Jamie Patricof (Blue Valentine).