Yesterday morning (i.e., Wednesday) I mentioned a response from a film critic friend about the apparent indifference being expressed by MGM honcho Gary Barber about the deteriorating 70mm elements for John Wayne‘s The Alamo (’60). “This ridiculous Alamo situation seems to have reached the point where an effort should be made to rally the big boys — Scorsese, Spielberg, Fincher, Cameron, Lucas, Nolan, whomever else — to speak out about this and hopefully embarrass the hell out of Barber and anyone else at MGM who might be standing in the way,” he said. Soon after I began writing several heavy-hitter directors and their reps, and am pleased to report that six have personally told me they’ll sign a letter to Barber that asks MGM to support a restoration of The Alamo that would be funded independently.
The six supporters of Project Alamo are JJ Abrams (director of the currently lensing Star Wars, Episode VII), Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Rian Johnson (Star Wars, Episode VIII), Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman).
I have also written directly to Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne, and I have appealed to representatives of George Clooney, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Chris Nolan and Steven Spielberg. I have yet to reach out to James Cameron and George Lucas. I’m looking to get at least ten signatures if not a few more. When all is said, done and signed I’ll publish the full, final letter in Hollywood Elsewhere and send a dead-tree version to Barber and other MGM execs.
Guillermo and Alfonso were the first to agree. Vaguely ironic, isn’t it, that two Mexican filmmakers were the first to support this effort when Wayne’s film portrays the Mexican forces under General Santa Anna in a somewhat (you could even say markedly) negative light? This issue is about restoration and preservation, of course, and not history or the perception of same. For what it’s worth, there’s a moment at the very end of Wayne’s film in which General Santa Anna offers a gesture of respect to the female and underage survivors of the Alamo siege. A grace note, if you will.
Again, a draft of the letter to Mr. Barber: “Gary — As a filmmaking colleague we’re sure you appreciate the necessity of allowing Robert Harris to restore the 70mm version of John Wayne‘s The Alamo. It is our understanding that MGM is unwilling to fund this effort, which we understand and have no issue with. What puzzles us is MGM’s reported reluctance to allow outside financing to cover the costs. Please allow the second option to happen. Nobody wants to bear the responsibility for allowing a respected, large-format, Oscar-nominated film to deteriorate into waste matter. It will be to your considerable credit if you approve this approach, and you will have our full and profound respect if you do. — Best wishes, the undersigned hotshots (Spielberg, Cameron, Abrams, Inarritu, Nolan, etc.)”
Mr. Del Toro agreed to sign the letter under one condition, which is that he would not be referred to as a “hotshot.” I agreed to this request.