Hi - I’m John Morrissey, the Producer of American History X. Today there are multiple producers on every movie but not in those days: I was the only ‘Produced By’ credit. The only Exec Producers (excluding De Luca and Brian Witten, the New Line execs) involved with the production were Steve Tisch, who was very helpful, and Bill Carraro, who was the line producer. My partner Larry Turman was involved in the early development. I got the script as a ‘spec’ and set it up at Savoy Pictures, where Cathy Schulman was our exec. We were doing re-writes when Savoy went out of business. 10 months later I set it up at New Line. I was in every audition, worked the pre-production, was on the set every day, worked with all 3 of our Academy Award winning editors (Richard Halsey, who assembled the film, was not credited) and finished the film (supervised the orchestral score recordings, designed the credits, etc) after Tony refused to continue with the project.
Tony refused to continue because New Line permitted Edward Norton into the editing room. He was there for 3 days only; virtually none of the editorial suggestions he made were used in the film (despite comments to the contrary that I’ve heard attributed to Edward). New Line was thrilled, not unhappy, with the first cut - as Mike De Luca is sure to confirm. The reason is we scored 88% in the top two boxes at our first test screening. De Luca had previously told us he’d be happy with anything over 50% and he wasn’t sure we’d hit that (because his earlier controversial film ‘Menace II Society’ had scored low but done good box office business).
I’m writing all this because your video is full of misinformation. You have some things right (Tony did bring a priest, a rabbi and a monk to a meeting but that was the least of the craziness) but many of your ‘facts’ seem to come from comments made by Tony or Edward long after the fact - and both talented gentlemen had axes to grind and venomous feelings that took years to calm down. I watch these ‘10 Things You Never Knew’ videos and enjoy them so I don’t want to attack you for your mistakes - but here’s a few corrections:
- Joaquin Phoenix was never considered for the lead; it’s possible that New Line had conversations with his agent but New Line never once questioned our casting decisions and we - Tony, the casting director and I - never even discussed Joaquin. 2. David McKenna, the writer, may have known something about Frank Meeink but he never mentioned Frank and no one making the film ever knew about him - I haven’t asked David but I’m pretty sure the script was entirely original and not based on any person or incident. 3. There was no ‘Edward Norton cut’ of the movie, although it’s true he felt Tony’s cut was too tight and the scenes needed ‘more room to breathe’. 4. Edward was hired to act, not write. The primary revisions were done over a period of 3 months in my backyard with Tony, David and I discussing scenes and character - David did all the writing. It’s true that Edward revised some of his own dialogue, such as his speech before the raid on the Korean grocery store and his confrontation with Elliot Gould.
That’s it, I won’t go on, however I do suggest you try to avoid hearsay and gossip when preparing these videos because facts can be checked. Carry on! But please be more careful.