These days, tales of woe on big Hollywood productions are a dime a dozen. Sagas of screenwriter musical chairs (read: The Rock), ego-fueled power showdowns (John Travolta versus Roman Polanski on The Double), and over-budget, over-schedule dilemmas (The Mirror Has Two Faces) are all too common. The latest snafu-riddled production? The Devil’s Own, Columbia’s actioner starring Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt, due late this year, which seems to have hit that inglorious trifecta of trouble: The film’s budget has gone from a reported $70 million to nearly $100 million, the shooting schedule is weeks past its June deadline, and the production has been haunted by reports of an ego clash between its stars. The project has even left another film hanging — Mandalay Entertainment’s mountain-climbing flick Seven Years in Tibet, which has had to push its start date back two months while its star, Pitt, pays the Devil his due.
The tempest began building last year when Devil producer Larry Gordon signed Pitt (for a reported $8 million to $10 million) to play the flashy part of IRA gunrunner Frankie the Angel in the Alan J. Pakula-directed movie. But the dynamic of the film changed when, to everyone’s surprise, A-list headliner Ford expressed interest in what was described by one scripter as the supporting ”Robert Duvall-like role” of Tom O’Meara, the New York detective who forges a paternal bond with Frankie. Happy to land another big name, Gordon signed Ford, despite his $20 million salary. But almost predictably, with two superstars involved, the inevitable script tinkering soon followed.
Filming began in New York City in February, and from the start, the leading men locked horns over the Kevin Jarre (Tombstone) screenplay. The actors ”seem to have had different versions” of the movie in their heads, says one Columbia-based producer. A studio executive familiar with the film adds that Ford ”wanted his character to be showier, like Pitt’s.” Pitt, meanwhile, was given a love interest for his character (newcomer Natasha McElhone). According to one of the film’s numerous script doctors — who include Pakula, In the Name of the Father‘s Terry George, and Lethal Weapon 3 scribe Robert Kamen, among others — there was concern about giving Ford, the elder hunk statesman, the unenviable task of playing opposite the Sexiest Man Alive. ”This thing came together just as Seven was becoming this huge hit,” notes the scripter. The studio exec claims Ford’s character was made more heroic by reworking some scenes, including one in which O’Meara fumbles with his gun.
Ford’s agent, Pat McQueeney, dismisses ”all these ugly rumors,” claiming there have been no battles for a dominant role. But reportedly production was often delayed — sometimes for long periods — for the purposes of tweaking dialogue, prompting studio suits to start checking up on their snail-paced project daily.
But as Ford’s role got beefier, Pitt thought the delicate balance between their two characters had changed for the worse. After Pakula’s revise, according to several sources close to the production, Pitt complained that the new script wasn’t what he had agreed to. And reports of Pitt’s disgruntlement persist: Last month, the actor reportedly walked off the set but returned the next day. The film’s publicist denies the incident, saying that shooting was called off that day due to rain. A spokesperson for Pitt declined to comment.