I’ve been told that story about Stephen Sommers‘ removal from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Paramount 8.7) isn’t far from the truth and at least deserves a read. It comes from a guy named “End Times.” He posted the account last night on Don Murphy’s site. [Note: story was removed yesterday morning.]

G.I. Joe director Stephen Sommers; French poster art

My source says Sommers “was given total freedom but he melted down and has made the biggest bomb in many a moon. Paramount production chief Brad Weston is looking to bail and work for Peter Chernin with Star Trek as his coda because G.I. Joe will decimate the Paramount team and lead to many, many scapegoats.”

Here‘s the “End Times” account with comments:

“After a test screening [of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra] in which the film got the lowest test score ever from an audience in the history of Paramount, the executive who pushed for the movie — Brad Weston — had Stephen Sommers, the superhack director of the film, fired. Removed. Locked out of the editing room.” Wells comment: How does this guy know what Paramount’s test-scoring history is? Does he have all the stats? If so, how did he get them?

Stuart Baird, a renowned fixer editor, was brought it to try to see if G.I. Joe could be made releasable. Meanwhile producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, whose turkey Imagine That (also championed by Weston) explodes this weekend as the new bomb in theatres, was told his services were no longer needed on the film either.” Wells comment: Someone needs to call around and verify and round this out.

“Sommers was then forced by his William Morris agents to pretend that he was working on Tarzan over at Warner Brothers, doing design work, even though that film doesn’t even have a good script yet. When word of the firing started to be whispered about in Hollywood, Sommers was summoned back to the editing room but merely to save appearances. Baird is still re-editing the movie with studio input.

“Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, who turned down other offers from the property to go with the script that was rushed out in eight weeks by Stuart Beattie (i.e., because of the writer’s strike), is frantic that the Sommers-created debacle will destroy the brand and is now distancing himself from the pending catastophe.

“None of this needed to happen. The problem is that someone did not know the mythology. Lorenzo di Bonaventura was in charge of the film and never contradicted Sommers on anything. Lorenzo, so you know, was previously a senior Warners honcho and had GI Joe under option there (not as a producer) for seven years and he refused to greenlight the film, stating that because he grew up in Italy he had no knowledge of it.

“If you google enough, at one point you will see he wanted the film to be about an action hero named Mann (Action Man…got it) and he clearly had no clue what the GI Joe world really was.

“And the hapless hack Sommers? Where did he come from? The confused Jon Fogelman at William Morris, who signed Hasbro away from CAA, had to find a director in a hurry for his new clients and gave [Paramount] the only guy who he repped who would do it. A sad end to what could have been a great franchise. Acceleration suits indeed.”

Update: Movieline‘s Kyle Buchanan posted a followup a few hours ago, the gist saying that “sources” have told him that Sommers is still on the film.

So I got in touch with my guy and here’s what he said: “The bottom line is that you don’t read stuff like this about a film that’s working. The bad buzz around G.I. Joe has been swirling around for a long time. The studio knows it’s a bomb and is trying to mitigate the disaster.

“Sommers’ complete autonomy got them into this mess, but he doesn’t have it anymore. He was petulant and demanding throughout the production and got his way at every turn, until now. This isn’t about his final cut nor anyone’s respective ‘vision’ as they’re now mightily endeavoring to get a version of this film together that’s releasable and can get the biggest opening possible.

“One person at Paramount said it’s the weakest major release since Escape From L.A. Any hopes for a new tentpole are completely gone.”