Movie titles get changed all the time for a variety of reasons. For example, this summer’s superhero combo-pack The Avengers will be called Avengers Assemble in the UK, presumably to prevent older Brits from doddering into theaters excitedly expecting to see Dame Diana Rigg.
Sometimes it’s due to marketing, sometimes it’s just the caprices of studio execs, but in the case of The Weinstein Company’s Lawless, formerly known as Wettest County, it’s all thanks to one unexpected individual: press-shy auteur Terrence Malick. The original title of the Prohibition crime drama — starring Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf as moonshine bootleggers from the feral hills of Virginia — was a shortening of the title of the book it’s adapted from, The Wettest County in the World, a historical novel by Matt Bondurant based on the true lives of his grandfather and two granduncles. But a change of heart from the Tree of Life director allowed the filmmakers to switch the marquee.
“We’d always wanted the title Lawless,” producer Lucy Fisher told EW, “but it was always unavailable to us.” That’s because the only-very-recently prolific Malick had dibs on the name for one of his upcoming projects, of which little is known except that it boasts a formidable cast, including Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, and Rooney Mara. However, it turned out that Malick enjoys the work of director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) enough to part ways with that title. “Terry very graciously gave us the go-ahead to use it,” says Fisher. “Because, he said, he’s a fan of John’s. He gets a special thank you in the movie.”
Lawless hits theaters on Aug. 31, while Malick’s film is supposed to begin filming this year.