Today a well-sourced, nicely written piece about Don’s Plum (’96), the long-suppressed, improvisational hang-out film that costars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Kevin Connolly, appeared on Vanity Fair.com.
Written by Chris Lee, it covers the long, soul-draining saga of what began as a short film made by a group of bros in ’95 and ’96, but expanded into a feature-length thing when director R.D. Robb and producer Dale Wheatley sensed during editing that they’d shot something crazier and more complex than what a short could contain.
The problem was that DiCaprio and Maguire didn’t want Don’s Plum released as a feature, partly because they didn’t find their loose-shoe performances flattering and partly because it was never supposed to be more than a short. They eventually took measures to have the feature-length verson killed as far as U.S. and Canadian distribution was concerned.
The film finished shooting 20 years ago and you still can’t see it domestically, although you can buy the German Region 2 DVD.
I wrote 5,000 words about Don’s Plum in ‘late 97 for Mr. Showbiz, only the piece has been deleted and presumably trashed. (I might have a color print-out stuffed in my closet.) I contributed some of this story to a People magazine article about DiCaprio than ran in January ’98.
The backstory boils down to this: Robb, Wheatley and producers David Stutman and John Schindler should have gone along with requests from DiCaprio and Maguire to make a short instead of a feature, and used it as a calling-card thing. But they decided to be ambitious instead, and paid the price for that. DiCaprio and Maguire felt betrayed and eventually went to court to stop the film (which I’ve seen a couple of times in a muddy, dupey VHS form) from being released, and succeeded.
Honestly? Don’s Plum is nothing to do cartwheels over, but it isn’t half bad. I love the way it snapshots the mid ’90s and whole DiCaprio posse psychology, and particularly the way it exposes some of the rawer feelings and less compassionate attitudes among this group, particularly as expressed by Leo, who plays a swaggering-dick version of himself.
Why did Lee write this article now? Probably because 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Don’s Plum‘s completion and the start of the contretemps. I walked away from the Don’s Plum story 17 or 18 years ago. Get shut of it — shut it out.
Except from Lee’s article: “In a five-hour videotaped deposition, DiCaprio expressed a certain anguish over the friendships wrecked by the making of Don’s Plum, while also making clear he never signed on for a feature.
“’Number one, first and foremost, the agreement had always been that this was a short film. I never had any intention of doing a feature film. Whatsoever,” DiCaprio said. “When I do a feature film, I have lots of rehearsal. I have script meetings. It takes weeks and weeks and weeks. And I shoot for months and months, up to six months, up to seven months at a time. I would never go in for one night and improvise with my friends and make a feature film. There’s no way I would ever do that.”
“Why did I care?” DiCaprio said. “These guys were my friends. And how could they try and change what our word was by editing a feature film? It was a shock to me.”