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As 'The Crow' flies

The film’s tragic history and studio shakeups leave the Brandon Lee vehicle in limbo

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Will the ill-fated The Crow ever see the inside of a movie theater? Not via Paramount Pictures. The studio, which was scheduled to release the film before Brandon Lee was shot to death during filming last March, has now declined to distribute the movie. And other Hollywood studios are following suit, citing the film’s ultraviolence and its NC-17 potential.

According to a Paramount spokesman, the company feels the movie ”did not fit into the release schedule.” But insiders say the studio feared it would be accused of exploiting Lee’s death. ”It could become a real hot kitchen,” says one Paramount executive. The tragedy isn’t the only reason producer Edward Pressman is still shopping for a buyer. ”It was a pretty violent film, really a depressing picture,” says a source at Columbia, which rejected releasing the tale of a murdered rocker who comes back to life. ”I’d be surprised if one of the majors picked it up.” A Warner Bros. exec says his studio passed on the picture due to a packed release schedule, its steep $15 million acquisition price, and because ”the way the picture is cut it would get an NC-17, and we don’t release NC-17s.” Insiders predict an eventual sale to a distributor with holes in its lineup (either MGM or New Line).

Pressman, who just settled a negligence lawsuit filed by Lee’s family for an undisclosed amount, says Brandon’s mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, is in favor of distributing the film. Not surprisingly, Pressman, abiding by the wishes of the Lee family, has removed the death scene Lee was filming when he was fatally struck in the abdomen by a bullet (the actual footage will be destroyed). To help complete the film, Presman hired screenwriters Terry Hayes (Mad Max) and Walon Green (RoboCop 2) to reshape the story. In the final cut, Lee’s character’s demise is shown in dreamy flashback. ”Obviously, the ! film is controversial,” says the producer. ”The movie is true to its source: The original comic book is violent. The script is violent, and the movie is violent. I hope the film can be seen for what it is.”

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