Wes Craven‘s Cursed will turn 15 years old in just a few months, though if the film had been released when it was originally supposed to be, it would have turned 15 last August.
Cursed had a notoriously troubled production, with several filming delays and reshoots taking place between the start of filming in March 2003 and its eventual release in February 2005. Joe Lipsett and I discussed the film on the Horror Queers podcast last month, where we tried to decipher just what happened with it. Other than deciding that Bob Weinstein is a jerk (big shock there), we couldn’t figure it out. Still, that won’t stop us from continuing our investigation…
That brings us to the reason I’m writing this article.
If you listened to our episode on the film, you’ll recall that Craven shot roughly 90% of Kevin Williamson‘s original script before Weinstein came in and expressed his dissatisfaction over what had been filmed (why he waited that long to tell him is anyone’s guess). He ordered Williamson to re-write the script with a new plot and halted production until he finished. Almost a year later, filming resumed on the new version. Craven himself estimated that 70% of what he originally shot had to be discarded (though the footage supposedly still exists out there somewhere), making the final cut an admittedly choppy and uneven film. Here’s an estimated (but perhaps not 100% correct) timeline of events, based on information that has been made public over the years:
- August 2000 – Kevin Williamson writes the original script for Cursed.
- October 2002 – Bob Weinstein announces that Cursed would “reinvent the werewolf genre,” and Wes Craven would direct, with the movie being released around August 2003.
- March 2003 – Filming begins on Cursed.
- Late Spring/Early Summer 2003 – Bob Weinstein expresses his unhappiness with the 90% of Cursed that had been shot and orders the script to be re-written and the film re-shot with the new script. Production is postponed for almost a year.
- December 2003 – Shooting begins on the new script, with some actors being recast (Mandy Moore‘s character was recast with Mya due to the former’s scheduling conflicts) and some being removed entirely (Skeet Ulrich‘s character Vince, one of the three main protagonists of Williamson’s original script, was no longer a part of the new script).
- Mid-2004 – Two more sets of reshoots are done, one of which being a new ending (well, a newer ending, since it would be the third one written for the film). The film is scheduled to be released in October 2004.
- Fall 2004 – Bob Weinstein demands that the R-rated film be cut down to earn a PG-13 rating. The film is pushed from its October 2004 release date to accommodate these edits.
- February 25, 2005 – Cursed is released in theaters nationwide and opens to overwhelmingly negative reviews and a domestic opening weekend gross of $9.6 million. The film would go on to gross $19.3 million domestically and $10.3 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $29.6 million against a reported budget of $38 million (though some have claimed it ballooned as high as $75 million).
The original plot centered around three strangers brought together by a car accident on Mulholland Drive after they are all attacked and injured by a werewolf. The three characters were named Ellie Hudson (Christina Ricci), Vince Winston (Skeet Ulrich), and Jimmy Myers (Jesse Eisenberg). After Williamson’s re-write, Ellie and Jimmy were turned into siblings reeling from the recent deaths of their parents, and the Vince Winston character was written out entirely. There are plenty of other differences, and if you want to know them you can read the original script, which is available online if you’re good at searching. The re-writes weren’t the only change, however. Rick Baker‘s practical effects were eventually deleted and replaced with KNB EFX Group’s CGI (though Baker has posted some of his work on Twitter over the years).
Craven made his thoughts on his experience with the film clear in an interview with Ain’t It Cool News in 2009, but some of the film’s stars have mentioned Cursed in interviews as well. Judy Greer lamented the re-shoots in an interview with Buzzfeed in 2014 and Christina Ricci criticized the studio system in an interview with The AV Club in 2018. But as far as I know, Jesse Eisenberg has never publicly acknowledged the film outside of the press junkets leading to the film’s release in 2005. Until now, that is.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Eisenberg in advance of Zombieland: Double Tap‘s (our review) release this weekend, but I entered the interview with a secret mission: to ask him about the troubled production of shooting Cursed. As I received the “wrap-it-up” motion from the PR representative, I brought up the fact that Cursed would be turning 15 in February (“FIFTEEN?!”, Eisenberg yelped) and asked him if he could say anything about his experience working on the film. I expected him to be dodgy with his response, which is why I saved the question for the end of the interview (well, that and because it was a question that had nothing to do with Zombieland: Double Tap). So imagine my surprise when Eisenberg expressed not only shock, but excitement at answering the question! Upon being reminded of the rough timeline of the production, he said:
“The first movie was more interesting and provocative. I don’t know why it wasn’t working. Now that we know the behind-the-scenes of the Weinstein company, it makes sense as to why it was so chaotic.”
Seemingly having a blast recalling the complete and total clusterfuck that was his 2003 and 2004 (well, not total clusterfuck, as he was also shooting The Squid and the Whale and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village during that time), Eisenberg delighted in offering his thoughts on the film, searching his brain for more tidbits of information to give me in the two minutes we had left to speak.
“What else can I tell you,” he asked. “They filmed 90% of the bigger budget version…the first movie was this very splashy thing. The second version was definitely cutting corners in a lot of different ways. And the plot? I thought it was so stupid. I thought the plot was so cliché. They made us brother and sister? The things that they kept [from the original film] were little snippets. Like a car rolling down a hill. They kept that shot.”
As if re-shooting a new film once wasn’t enough, the cast and crew had to go back two more times for reshoots, but they all got a keepsake during the final set of reshoots. As Eisenberg remembers it:
“The crazy part is that after we filmed the whole second version of the film, we had to go back for a third re-shoot which lasted about 20 days. That’s like the length of an independent movie. And then we had to go back a fourth time for like 10 days and they made shirts that said Cursed 4: Back for More.”
Not lost on Eisenberg is the fact that Cursed had a rather apt title. As mentioned above, the film was panned by critics when the film was released in February 2005, with many reviews bringing up the “cursed” production of the film. Eisenberg is fully aware of the irony, and concluded the interview with one final piece of advice:
“I’m not a big believer in…what is it? Semiotics? The study of meanings behind words and symbols? But anyway, don’t do a movie with that particular title.”