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'Night' Still Colored by Controversy : Movies: First, nudity from the erotic thriller is trimmed to earn an R rating. Now 'Tombstone' director George Cosmatos is brought in to shoot scenes for the film starring Bruce Willis.

July 22, 1994|JUDY BRENNAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Although its ratings problems have apparently been resolved with an R rating awarded earlier this week, Disney's upcoming erotic thriller "Color of Night" is still mired in controversy: Another director has been brought aboard at the last minute, and new scenes for the film, which is scheduled to be released Aug. 19, were being shot Thursday.

"Tombstone" director George Cosmatos was picked to shoot a new scene with the film's stars Bruce Willis and Ruben Blades that sources say may alter the picture.

Cosmatos' appearance has caused quite a stir, since the film's director, Richard Rush, had been embroiled in a heated arbitration with producer and Cinergi chairman Andy Vajna this spring over the final cut of the picture. Amid problems with that dispute, Rush suffered a heart attack April 25 and is still recovering.

But Geoffrey Ammer, Cinergi's president of worldwide marketing, said that the arbitration has been resolved and that Rush, who is working on the final mix of the film, is fully aware of Cosmatos' involvement. Ammer said Cinergi brought Cosmatos aboard to supervise shooting of the new scenes since it didn't want Rush to lose dubbing time so close to the release date.

"They did ask me if I wanted to shoot (the additional scenes). But frankly, I don't think the scene will be used," Rush says. "Cosmatos called and asked if it was OK with me to do it, and I was glad that they picked him instead of some TV guy. I feel my time should be spent finishing this."

He described the key new scene as sort of a sting between the co-stars at the end "which is meant as a little joke." Blades plays a cop and Willis is a New York analyst who moves to California after the suicide of one of his patients. After he arrives, his therapist buddy is killed and he takes over his friend's therapy group, hoping to find the murderer. It is the graphic sex scenes between Willis and co-star Jane March ("The Lover") that have kept the picture in the headlines. Those scenes, which showed plenty of full frontal nudity of both, apparently have been trimmed significantly, because the picture was awarded an R rating from the MPAA on Monday.

A 20-minute cut had been shown at the Cannes Film Festival that included some of those explicit scenes. "Those scenes," joked a Disney source, "could have re-launched Willis' career."

While the sex scenes have been clipped from the Aug. 19 release, expect them to crop up in the videocassette version, which Rush says could surface as early as three weeks after the film opens. "This will be my version of the film. What you are seeing on the screen is Andy's. This video, which really is the director's cut, is an agreement I have with Andy," Rush says.

Rush's heart attack occurred one week after the dispute between Rush and Vajna over the final cut began. "Andy and I are friends, but we had a severe difference of opinion," Rush says. "I thought I had final cut on this. But the contract was a bit vague. It turned out I didn't." Rush returned to the project two weeks ago to put on finishing touches.

"I had more of, shall we say, a perverse and darker version than Andy's. My pictures are dense and strange. Andy's version is more commercial. Now it's not as graphic as it was, but it's still pretty daring. Of course, I still feel it was better darker."

But Disney sources say the picture did not test well in about five early screenings, so the original April 29 release date was pushed back for editing. Those sources also say that Vajna tapped Cosmatos--a friend who has brought him Cinergi's biggest hit to date, "Tombstone"--because of the dispute he had with Rush over final cut. They say Rush is perceived by some as being pretty rusty since this is the first film he's directed in 14 years since the 1980 Oscar nominee "The Stunt Man" starring Peter O'Toole, a project he reportedly worked on for nine years.

Rush says he's delved into other projects since that film, although they failed to hit the screen. And as for the test screenings on "Color of Night," he said they showed mixed results.

Gone now are scenes with Willis' character talking to the camera as if he were talking directly to the audience, which Disney sources say just didn't work. They also say another problem with the film was a leading character's distinctive features, which hindered a key plot twist. Rush said "prosthetics" and makeup have fixed any problems.

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