UPDATE: As you may have heard by now, Jude Law — himself a recent addition to the cast — has now followed Ramsay to the exit, having signed on to work with her and not another director. After Michael Fassbender, he’s the second major star to abandon the project in the last week. “Jane” may have a gun, but she can’t catch a break.
PREVIOUSLY: Okay, so “Jane” is no longer a calamity. One day after gifted Scottish director Lynne Ramsay shockingly pulled out of Natalie Portman-starring Western “Jane Got a Gun” on the very first day of shooting, her replacement has already been drafted: Gavin O’Connor, the sturdy multi-hyphenate whose films include “Tumbleweeds,” “Pride and Glory” and, most recently, “Warrior.” With O’Connor on board, shooting will get under way tomorrow. No time to waste.
It’s a smart choice, in my opinion. O’Connor is a solid, sensible craftsman who began in the independent realm and has since brought that sensibility to more mainstream projects. His 1999 breakthrough feature “Tumbleweeds,” a mother-daughter dramedy which earned British actress Janet McTeer an Oscar nomination, remains an underseen gem, and while his studio-backed follow-ups “Miracle” and “Pride and Glory” lacked that film’s spark and character, they were respectable, well-acted efforts.
It all came together two years ago on “Warrior,” a muscular, moving sports drama with brilliant work from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton (plus an Oscar-nominated Nick Nolte) that didn’t deserve its grim commercial fate. Financial disappointment notwithstanding, it was the kind of critically acclaimed, audience-friendly project that should have edged him up the pecking order for A-list projects: here’s the first of them, though there are several others in the pipeline.
Granted, O’Connor isn’t as singular or as sensuous a stylist as Ramsay — though that, if anything, is an advantage when boarding a project that has until only a few days ago been another director’s vision. Better still, he’s a notably efficient filmmaker, and they’ll certainly be glad of that, given the stressful start to the shoot. It’ll be interesting to see O’Connor return to a female-led project so many years after “Tumbleweeds,” especially given that his last few projects have been so testosterone-charged — as such, directing Portman in a traditionally male-dominated genre plays to his strengths in multiple ways.
It’s as happy an outcome as we could have hoped for to a potentially disastrous situation — kudos to Scott Steindorff and his fellow producers (including Portman herself) for keeping it together.
I remain bitterly disappointed over Ramsay, whom I think is one of the most exciting filmmakers at work today, and for whom “Jane” represented a major opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll hear her side of the story in due course. More hopefully still, this unfortunate situation won’t ensure the wait for her next feature is as long (or longer) than the painful nine years that separated “Morvern Callar” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Perhaps she didn’t have the temperament for this kind of production, though this story has prompted rather too much wild projection in the blogosphere for my liking.
Anyway, roll on “Jane” — a project about which we remain hugely excited, and not just because it’s written by former In Contention contributor Brian Duffield. If you missed the story yesterday, Kris has all the details.