Warner Bros Cutting Violent Theater Scene from 'Gangster Squad'?
In light of the recent tragic events during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado that left 12 dead and over 50 injured, Warner Bros has apparently been on "crisis-management". They've cancelled a number of press events and pulled ads for TDKR from radio & TV. The movie did still go on to earn an impressive $162 million at the box office, but Warner Bros has something else to worry about. WB quietly started pulling trailers for Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad, the 40s/50s cop drama, after the shooting. Now Variety say they're recutting the film because, if you recall, it has a violent movie theater shooting in it.
The scene in question, if you recall seeing it in the trailers, involves Sean Penn as mobster Mickey Cohen and his cronies entering the famous Grauman's Chinese theater from behind the screen, shooting tommy guns as they walk towards the audience. At the time this was released, in May two months ago, it was just a violent scene that nobody through too much of. Now just rewatching it elicits uncomfortable feelings of terror and unavoidable comparisons to the recent tragedy, which is why Warner Bros is making a move to change it. Variety reports specifically on the alteration, stating in their article on Warner Bros' decisions:
"The studio moved swiftly Friday to pull from exhibs and online outlets the trailer for Gangster Squad, a period drama that featured a scene in which agents spray machine-gun fire into a crowded movie theater from behind the screen. Given the eerie association created by the Aurora shootings, Warner Bros. has since decided to remove the scene from the film, which opens Sept. 7, and is putting reshoot plans into motion, a source with knowledge of the situation told Variety. Warner Bros. would not comment."
This isn't the first time we've heard that this might be happening, as The Film Stage and other outlets were picking up on hints and bits and pieces behind-the-scenes through other online reports. The LA Times ran an article on all the Gangster Squad trailers being pulled, stating: "Studio executives are discussing the possibilities of pushing the release date and recutting the film to minimize the theater shooting scene or remove it altogether." Now it sounds like they're definitely removing or at least altering the scene and, I would assume, delaying the release as well. It is, unfortunately, a decision that makes sense given the state of the nation after the shooting, plus the connection with movies and movie theaters is all too painful now.
The scene was a rather important part of the movie, a key piece in the later half. I actually remember seeing Ruben filming part of the scene outside of the actual Grauman's Chinese late one night (see photos here). Thinking back to it, the scene was rather horrific, involving the mobsters shooting into the theater and the audience members fleeing out the entrance screaming, tommy guys and shotguns going off everywhere. I don't think anyone wants or needs to see anything like this anytime soon, even in another movie, and it's right of WB to put a hold on this and make revisions, as unfortunate as it is for Ruben and the movie itself.
Critic Richard Roeper also commented on the Gangster Squad connection on his own blog recently, adding his thoughts into the mix about the necessity of the scene being cut now. "It is of course a small thing in the grand scheme, but when there is large-scale tragedy, there is pop culture fallout." He makes a very good point and I think Warner Bros understands that bigger connection/concern, too. From Roeper's post:
"I read the screenplay for Gangster Squad, and the theater scene (ONSCREEN GUNFIRE joined by ACTUAL GUNFIRE...Panicked PATRONS dive, crawling, scrambling toward the exits...) is a key sequence taking place fairly late in the action. No official word yet on whether the scene in question will be cut from the movie.
No matter. I can’t imagine Warner Bros. keeping the scene in the film. With Gangster Squad set for release only six weeks from now, it would take people out of the moviegoing experience and instantly remind them of the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colo."
At the moment, Warner Bros is playing things very close to the chest, not announcing much or revealing any major changes. We've been following updates regarding the repercussions of the shooting and while they're still letting The Dark Knight Rises play, without reporting box office numbers yet, it sounds like Gangster Squad is going to be put on hold. Possibly so they can reshoot scenes. Variety says "Warner is considering canceling a Gangster Squad test screening planned for later this month", and every single version of the trailer has been scrubbed entirely off of the internet—at least for the United States ("has not made this video available in your country"). From here, we'll have to wait for actual updates from Warner Bros on all of this.