The year 2017 was set to be a great one for Alfonso Gómez-Rejón. The Tejano filmmaker, who had gone from directing Glee and American Horror Story to a helming the 2015 breakout indie Sundance darling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, was about to unveil his most ambitious project to date. Set to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Current War had an illustrious pedigree. The story of the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse had been anointed as one of the best unproduced screenplays back in 2011 and Gómez-Rejón had assembled an enviable cast that included Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Tom Holland, and Nicholas Hoult. Only, when it screened at TIFF it received a less than warm reception. The Hollywood Reporter, for instance, noted that “for all its aggressive energy, The Current War is an uninvolving bore, making it unlikely to measure up as the kind of Oscar-baity prestige entry The Weinstein Co. obviously had in mind.” It’s that last tidbit of information which doomed the film.
Not long after the fest (and weeks before the film was set to be released) Harvey Weinstein, and his company in turn, became the center of an explosive controversy. Allegations of sexual harassment and assault bedeviled the once-mighty producer of such hits as The King’s Speed, Chicago, and Inglourious Basterds and all but imploded the company he’d cofounded with his brother. That alone was enough to put the nail in the coffin in Gómez-Rejón’s period drama. But there was more. Weinstein, who had been known to bully directors into trimming their films to his own tastes, had so mangled The Current War that the filmmaker had been frustrated (if not outright embarrassed) about the cut of the film that was shown at TIFF. His plan was always to hope and salvage it and return it to the film he always had in mind but the production company’s bankruptcy made that all but impossible.
Cut to 2019. The film, now titled The Current War: Director’s Cut, is about to be released and Gómez-Rejón is finally getting to deliver a project that’s been haunting him for two years. In an exclusive interview with Deadline, he’s walked through the process of getting the rights back for the film, raising necessary funds for reshoots, reediting the film, and adding a new propulsive score to the mix. It’s a version of the film he can now proudly stand by, which he hadn’t been able to do at TIFF in 2017. “I realized I finally saw myself in the film again,” he shared. “The personal hook that made me want to make this to begin with, was restored. All the noise and chaos was gone and now it was all on me. I drove away and it just flowed out of me. I realized it came from a great place, and not one of the fear or shame I felt with the other versions of the film. It just came out of a place of truth and me saying, this is who I am. I can honestly say this is the best I could have done.”
If nothing else, Gómez-Rejón’s experience, as traumatic and frustrating as it was, has taught him the importance of fighting for creative control. “Every movie you make should be worth fighting this kind of fight; it has to be why you’re making the film in the first place. If you walk away and go, let’s hope for the best and move on to the next, you will be haunted by the result.”
The Current War: Director’s Cut opens in theaters on October 25, 2019.