Director James Gray has discussed his frustrations with the final version of his 2019 film Ad Astra.
The sci-fi drama stars Brad Pitt as astronaut Roy McBride, who ventures into space in search of his lost father H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).
Despite receiving positive reviews upon release, Gray explained in an interview with Vulture how Disney’s acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox in 2019 “completely screwed up” the film from a corporate standpoint.
Asked why changes were forced upon Ad Astra, Gray said: “It was kind of a perfect storm. The birthing of it was so screwed up for reasons that had nothing to do with the movie. New Regency made the film, and they were trying to get it through Fox, and we were talking to Fox people, and then Fox got sold to Disney and folded up, basically. That was a proud studio at Twentieth Century Fox, and it’s gone. And then you have the Disney group, that’s a very different M.O. So it was completely screwed up on a corporate level.
“Also, with a film that is quite personal, people sometimes see themselves in it and will argue that other things are better. I did not have final cut, so I could not say, ‘I don’t like it. That’s the way it is’.”
He added: “Now, I was very upset about it because, as the writer-director, I felt that my view should win the day. And when people start coming up to you and saying, ‘Why’d you do all that stupid voice-over?’ and you didn’t do it, that’s a very frustrating experience.”
Despite the changes, Gray explained there’s still moments he’s proud of. “But it’s not like I want people to hate the movie,” he said. “The way I feel about it is – by the way, I’m not saying it’s as good – you hope it’s your own Blade Runner, where there are things in it that are clearly you that you love, and there are other things that were put into the film that aren’t you.
“There’s a lot I’m very proud of in the movie. But until then, I had been very lucky to have control over the films, and when the film stopped being a hundred per cent mine, I became like a petulant little child.”
Asked about the chances of a director’s cut of Ad Astra, Gray said he would “love to do it” but that he’d probably need “about 300,000 bucks” to pull it off.
“The director’s cut is 12 minutes shorter, by the way,” Gray said. “When is the director’s cut shorter than the released version? But there is somehow more Ruth Negga and Donald Sutherland in it. There are other things that are much shorter. But I’d love to do it.”
Gray’s latest film is Armageddon Time, starring Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkins. His previous credits include 2016’s The Lost City Of Z, The Immigrant and We Own The Night with Joaquin Phoenix.