Confirmed: Paramount Feuds With David Fincher Over Benjamin Button

Last week, I screened 20 minutes of clips of scenes from David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In our first impression article, I expressed my concern and disappointment over the footage shown, partly because I felt some of the short scenes dragged. Note: I haven't seen the entire film – I want to be clear on this..., I only screened 20 minutes of selected scenes. It was good but not great. I wasn't alone, FirstShowing and Jeff Wells also posted articles about the disappointing buzz the footage received at the festival.

In my blog posting, I told you about the rumors of Paramount's vicious fight with Fincher behind the scenes over the running time of the film. We also tried to connect the dots between the departure of Fincher's planned adaption of Heavy Metal and the rumored fight. Now The Playlist has found an interview with Kevin Eastman, creator of the Ninja Turtles and publisher of Heavy Metal, where he finally confirms the rumors:

"We developed it for Paramount in January... And it was time for them to make a decision [about going forward with the project] and they were at odds with Fincher over another project, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' [because] they wanted him to reduce the running time... and so they said, 'Until you step up to do what we want you to do with Benjamin, we're not going to greenlight any other of [your] movies.' And David said, 'Fine, fuck you, I'm going to set up [Heavy Metal] somewhere else,' so we jumped over to Sony and set it up there."

Yes, Fincher is a bad ass who won't take crap from anyone – including the studio who has supposedly spent over $150 million on a film aiming for award consideration. I've been told that this is his best and worst quality as a filmmaker.

But what if Paramount is right? I loved Fincher's Zodiac, but I think the theatrical cut could have benefited by losing 20-30 minutes on the back end. (Hey, there will always be a director's cut on DVD) It seems to me that Paramount might believe they are in the same situation with Button. It is worth noting that around the time of the Heavy Metal departure, the film was supposedly just under three hours long. An AICN reader saw a screening of that cut and admitted that "By an hour and a half/forty five, the audience was getting restless."

Anne Thompson's sources claim the film has since been cut to around two and a half hours, which probably meets with Fincher's studio obligations. But is that still too long? Another website reports that the latest cut is around two hours and fourty minutes. I havent seen the film, but the scenes Paramount and Fincher decided to screen at Telluride dragged in parts. I'm hoping the pacing issues will be resolved in the finished movie / in the context of the finished movie, because this film has the potential to be really magical.