Over two years ago, at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (who was just coming off his Sundance-winning Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) held the world premiere of his new film, The Current War. The problem was, his film about the fight over electricity between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) was nowhere near finished. There’s a flashback to Michael Shannon’s Westinghouse fighting in the Civil War in which the actor hadn’t even been de-aged yet. Now, Gomez-Rejon was assured by then producer Harvey Weinstein that the critics in attendance knew this was a work in progress and would review it accordingly. Guess what? I was in attendance that night and no one told me anything like that. I was under the impression this was a finished film. In retrospect, this all feels like Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was set up so Weinstein could get his way with drastic edits.
You probably know what happens next, as Weinstein became the subject of incredibly dramatic stories of sexual abuse, that soon led to the dissolution of The Weinstein Company, which included the assets, and the still-unfinished version of The Current War being one of them. So this movie sat in limbo all this time, until Gomez-Rejon was allowed to recut the film the way he intended and shoot some additional scenes. Finally, his version of this movie is ready to be seen by the public – which, perhaps, includes the first time a “Director’s Cut” tag has been used on a film’s initial release.
While talking to Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, it becomes apparent how depressing the last couple of years have been for him. And, more than anything, he’s just happy he finally gets to talk about it now.
So, being frank, after the 2017 Toronto screening ended, I have never seen a group of more miserable looking people on stage.
Yeah, man. I hadn’t slept in days. Weeks. I lost 20 pounds. It was just brutal. It was a brutal, brutal journey. I knew the film wasn’t ready to be screened at all, not even remotely close. So it was a very hard time. But that was then.
Here’s what I don’t get. I read what you said to Business Insider, that you couldn’t believe people were reviewing the movie as a finished product. As a member of the media who was in the audience that night, we were never informed it wasn’t a finished product. Were you being told we were informed of that?
Yeah, I was told it was a work in progress. So part of me at the screening was, “Okay, I still have two more months on this film.” Because we weren’t going to be released until November. And then I remember reading … I don’t read anything anymore, because it just hurts so much…
I don’t blame you.
I remember reading reviews when they were criticizing the visual effects and like, they’re 30 percent there! We haven’t even finished them and never even started others! And that’s when I realized that it was being judged as a finished product. I don’t know. It was a hard time. I haven’t thought about it for a while. I blocked it out, because it was such a hard dark period for me. And now, of course, it’s part of the conversation. We had our premiere last night, and I can honestly look the cast and crew in the eyes and say, “I gave you my best.” You know?