The Cotton Club Will Likely Get a Director's Cut
As early as 2016, it became known that Francis Ford Coppola was working on a new version of his 1984 film The Cotton Club. The reasons for that date back to the film's original release in the 80's. There were numerous conflicts behind the scenes with financiers who didn't like the fact that there were so many dance numbers and too many blacks at the centre of the story.
Of course, these were not the only complications during the shoot. Coppola only came on board late when the original director and producer Robert Evans was overwhelmed with the helming of the film. Originally, Coppola was only supposed to bring the story of the film back on track, but then he also took over the direction. He also secured the final cut to prevent the problems of The Godfather (1971). During the making of this classic, the director had regularly expected to be fired. Nevertheless, there were problems while rescuing The Cotton Club and at some point Coppola even excluded Evans from the shoot.
Although he had the final cut, Coppola was convinced by the foreign donors who paid in advance for the rights and thus contributed to the financing of the film that he should make certain adjustments. The dance numbers were shortened for the well-known theatrical version and the blacks in the Cotton Club were put more into the background.
Furthermore, Coppola regularly clashed with star Richard Gere, who allegedly cared more about his image than about the film. Gere wanted to play the cornet on stage, but at that time there was no white musician in the Cotton Club. Too many improvisations on set and constant script changes led to the budget increasing from 25 million to 58 million. At the box office, the film of course flopped in the end and only earned 15 million in the US.
Three decades later, Coppola invested half a million of his own money to create his director's cut of the film and showed it at the Telluride Film Festival at the end of 2017 for the first time. For this purpose, 13 minutes were removed from the old theatrical version, but also almost 25 minutes were added. The running time thus increases from 127 to 139 minutes. These are mainly dance numbers and songs - e.g. a cover of "Stormy Weathers". The inspiration for this version was an old Betamax version of an earlier, longer cut, which Coppola found. The restoration process was difficult because many scenes lacked film elements and he had to work with material from a workprint. Actors joined in to re-record dialogues. The son of the late Gregory Hines also helped.
Unfortunately, a regular, new release of the new version is difficult due to the complicated legal situation with international distributors. However, according to the latest information from Deadline, these problems have now been resolved and various distributors have already set their sights on the film. So it is very likely that we will soon be able to hold the Director's Cut of The Cotton Club in our hands.