Final Cut by Steven Bach

IMG_1446Michael Cimino died last month. He was the film director who won multiple Oscars for The Deer Hunter but then followed it up with Heaven’s Gate, a film widely believed to have killed United Artists (UA) through overruns which saw an $8 million budget balloon to $36 million or more. It was also judged unwatchable, which is a tricky thing for a movie since movies generally require a paying audience to recoup their investment. Failure is fascinating and Steven Bach, one of the UA executives who recommended the project be greenlit, and then utterly failed to manage it, helpfully wrote a book about the experience. Final Cut is subtitled ‘Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven’s Gate‘: the disaster was financial and reputational; the dreams were of creating something truly important. This may have been achieved: perhaps history will be kinder to it – there are signs that Heaven’s Gate has been favourably reassessed a mere three decades after the event. What seems certain is that Cimino never really recovered. His opinion of himself was stratospherically high but it is hard to believe that anyone could be untouched by this experience. Backers were obviously more wary too. The plastic surgeons had been at him as well. Pictures of the later Cimino brought to mind Alan Parker’s sad phrase about Mickey Rourke ‘before the vulturous surgeons sliced, poked and pushed his face into a Play-Doh version of his once handsome self’. By coincidence, Cimino worked with Rourke on Year Of The Dragon, a film for which I once had a soft spot. I imagine it would be stupid, dated, racist nonsense now and thus may suit these post-Brexit times. Heaven’s Gate, on balance, was unfairly maligned (Bach describes the film – partly, one suspects, to cheer himself up – as being like a western made by David Lean) yet while Cimino had talent you wouldn’t want him handling your personal finances: there is something almost heroic about being five days behind schedule when you are only six days into a movie shoot – but if I were paying for it, I might find a different adjective. Bach finds several in his book. He had more fun overseeing Moonraker, all in all.



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