Until a few days ago, "Tango and Cash" was a forgotten element in the legal battle between Sony and Warner Bros. over the rights to Hollywood's hottest production company,Guber-Peters Entertainment. Now, by declaring in court papers that they were taken off the movie by Warner two days before Sony asked them to run Columbia Pictures, producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters have pushed "Tango and Cash" into the foreground.
What is on view is a Sylvester Stallone-Kurt Russell action movie that sources say has been plagued by constant script revisions, poor scheduling, a change of directors and other production problems that may be pushing the film's budget beyond $50 million. And the film, the only one that the producers of "Batman" and "Rain Man" currently have in production, is being rushed toward a Dec. 15 release date that a studio executive said is "almost inconceivable" to make.
In a memorandum filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, Guber-Peters also claimed that Warner had replaced them on the project and, over Peters' objections, "advanced the release date of the film by many months."
In a reply memorandum filed with the same court Monday, Warner production chief Mark Canton called Guber and Peters "my best friends" and reiterated what he had told The Times last week--that he is in daily contact with the producers on matters related to the production of "Tango and Cash."
Canton also declared in his memo that film editor Stuart Baird had been hired to supervise the post-production phase of "Tango and Cash" before Sony offered to buy both Columbia Pictures and Guber-Peters, and make the duo co-chairmen of the studio. Warner has refused to release Guber and Peters from the five-year contract they signed in May.
"Tango and Cash," a story conceived by Peters about two incompatible cops forced into an alliance, went into production in June, changed directors in late August and finished two weeks of reshooting just 12 days ago.
The film finally wrapped Oct. 20, eight weeks before its scheduled opening in 1,600 theaters across the United States. ("Tango and Cash" trailers began screening Oct. 21 in theaters showing the action movies "Next of Kin" and "Black Rain.")
Canton acknowledged that it will be a tight squeeze to get the film--"now more than 50% done"--ready for Christmas. "But 'Batman' was a great training ground for all of us," he said, noting that that Guber-Peters production was also the subject of reports of a troubled set.
A spokeswoman for Guber-Peters said that the producers would not comment because of the litigation.
When the highly regarded Soviet-born director Andrei Konchalovsky ("Runaway Train") was replaced by Albert Magnoli, who manages rock singer Prince and directed Prince's hit film "Purple Rain" for Warner, the reason for the change was given as "creative differences." Warner has consistently denied that there are further problems with the film. In fact, Canton says he sees "Tango and Cash" becoming the kind of hit that generates sequels.
Others are less sanguine.
"This was the worst-organized, most poorly prepared film I've ever been on in my life," said a veteran member of the "Tango and Cash" crew, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "From the first day we started, no one knew what the hell anyone was doing."
Versions differ as to why Konchalovsky decided to leave the project after nearly three months of filming.
Though there have been frequent director changes on previous Stallone films ("Rocky II," "Nighthawks," "Rhinestone" and "Rambo III"), Canton and sources on the "Tango" set insisted that the actor had nothing to do with Konchalovsky's departure.
"Sylvester Stallone had no involvement in (Konchalovsky's) decision whatsoever--zero," said Canton. Added a source close to the project, "He was just a working actor in this one."
Stallone declined to be interviewed for this story but sent a letter to The Times that proclaimed in glowing terms his support for Konchalovsky and the overall production.
"This is the most fun I've ever had on a movie," Stallone's statement read in part. "I'll be sorry when this film is over."
Sources on the set said Konchalovsky was pushed out by Guber-Peters because he was so far behind schedule that it would have been impossible to deliver the film for the Christmas deadline that the producers say was pushed up and that the studio says was always there.
Yet, soon after completing principal photography in September, replacement director Magnoli called everyone back to the set for two more weeks of shooting that sources say was necessitated by his decision to create an entirely new opening sequence.