Given his one-time influence on the film industry over the years, the worst man in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein, had his grubby fingers in most blockbuster films to come out of America. The disgraced former producer and convicted rapist didn’t stop at producing only American films, though, as The Weinstein Company also distributed Bong Joon-ho‘s 2013 dystopian action film, Snowpiercer.
The movie stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Go Ah-sung, John Hurt and Ed Harris, and tells of an environment-defying train that circumnavigates the frozen-over globe (following disastrous climate change effects) with the final remnants of human civilisation on board. An uprising of the lower-class passengers leads them to take on the train’s elite.
Bong’s experience of dealing with Weinstein was not the director’s favourite, though. “It was a doomed encounter,” he once told Vulture. “I’m someone who, until that point, had only ever released the ‘director’s cut’ of my films. I’ve never done an edit I didn’t want to do. Weinstein’s nickname is ‘Harvey Scissorhands’, and he took such pride in his edit of the film.”
The master filmmaker said that Weinstein told him, “Wow, you are a genius. Let’s cut out the dialogue.” However, Bong was adamant about cutting out a scene where a train guard guts a fish so he can intimidate a group of rebels because it held personal significance to the director. But as keen as Bong was in keeping the scene, so too was Weinstein in cutting it.
“Harvey hated it,” Bong said. “Why fish? We need action!” In fact, Weinstein’s demands to cut up Bong’s film were so intense that the only way the director could get his way was to mislead Weinstein as to the reason he wanted, no, needed, to keep the scene intact.
“I had a headache in that moment: ‘What do I do?’” Bong explained. “So suddenly, I said, ‘Harvey, this shot means something to me.’ It’s something personal. My father was a fisherman. I’m dedicating this shot to my father.” But was Bong’s father actually a man of the sea?
Not in the slightest. “It was a fucking lie. My father was not a fisherman,” the director added. “I said, ‘Thank you.’” When the original screening scores for Snowpiercer came back on the low side, Weinstein again wielded his scissors and demanded that more scenes be cut from the film.
Bong was fortunately allowed to screen his longer ‘director’s cut’ in Los Angeles, and funnily enough, it yielded far higher test scores. But for the Oscar-winning director, “the whole thing was like a black comedy,” he admitted. “If this was someone else’s movie and you were making a documentary of the situation, it would be really funny. Unfortunately, it was my movie.”