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''Mr. Stitch'' plagued by creative differences

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In the past two years, he won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Pulp Fiction, and his directorial debut, Killing Zoe, became a cult fave. So isn’t it a bit early for Roger Avary to be going direct to video? That’s where Mr. Stitch, his modern variation on Frankenstein, has landed after on-set rifts between Avary and star Rutger Hauer turned its production into a horror show.

”Mr. Stitch was a nightmare to make,” says the 30-year-old writer-director. The bad dream began in 1994, when Avary began filming a pilot for a TV series designed for — and executive-produced by — Hauer, best known as the villain in Blade Runner and The Hitcher. Reportedly, the series was to launch via a feature film (which Avary denies), but that was before Hauer’s and Avary’s creative paths diverged. ”Nobody ever knew the movie Rutger was making,” Avary says. ”I collaborated with him as much as any human should allow himself to.”

Nia Peeples, who plays a psychologist who treats the multicolored creation (Wil Wheaton) of a military doctor (Hauer), concurs. ”Rutger wanted to change a lot of things whenever he’d get to the set. Roger tried to give him everything he wanted,” says Peeples, who was present when Avary asked Hauer to leave the set permanently — forcing him to edit around the star’s performance. ”They couldn’t agree on what [the movie] was about.” Hauer was unavailable for comment, but a source close to the actor says: ”Whatever [Mr. Stitch] is, it’s Roger Avary’s movie. Rutger did not have the collaboration he expected from Roger.”

Still, Avary is complimentary of Hauer’s unconventional acting style. ”His greatest blessing is his greatest curse,” he says. Currently planning to direct a remake of Dial M for Murder and revising a script based on Christopher Buckley’s satirical novel Thank You for Smoking, Avary says he ”loves working with insane actors.” But after Mr. Stitch, would he be willing to patch things up with Hauer? ”Hopefully, next time,” the director laughs, ”we’ll be working on the same movie.”

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