Warner Bros. is telling me they still haven’t decided when to release Clint Eastwood’s second Iwo Jima movie — the Japanese language Letters from Iwo Jima. Despite what Variety editor Peter Bart wrote on 9.3.06 with Clint’s apparent input (i.e., that Flags of Our Fathers “will open Oct. 20” [and then] Letters From Iwo Jima will open two months later“), I’ve been told that senior Warner Bros, distribution execs intend to open Letters sometime in January ’07, or perhaps even later…but they aren’t sure when.
All I could get from a Warner Bros. publicity rep today was two things: (a) “I know absolutely nothing …as soon as I do I’ll call you” and (b) an acknowledgement of a possible difference of opinion between the Eastwood camp and the Warner Bros. team about when it would be best to open Letters.
I asked why Bart, who’s friendly with Eastwood and clearly seemed to have spoken to him before writing his piece, would write that “Letters will open “two months later” following the 10.20 Flags debut — or roughly 12.20. “Sometimes the wishes of the filmmaker aren’t the same as the wishes of the studio,” came the reply.
WB distribution brass screened Letters last Wednesday, I’m told, and presumably met not long after to discuss their plans for the film’s distribution. They’ve now had at least three business days to think things through, and yet there’s stll no decision. How many days do they need?, I asked. Do they need to go up to the wilds of eastern Utah and camp out and talk about it a few more days? Why don’t they just decide and pull the trigger already?
The idea in releasing Letters from Iwo Jima in early ’07 is that it might split Best Picture votes away from Flags of Our Fathers. Trust me, the odds against that happening are very high. Call it xenophobia or call it native loyalty, but a Japanese-language, Japanese-soldier movie meant to be considered alongside an American war movie about American soldiers in the same theatre of battle s going to be regarded as strictly backup .
I wrote a couple of days ago that Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima “are joined-at-the-hip movies — same war backdrop, same battle, same director, same color scheme. Some of the same incidents, according to Peter Bart’s 9.3.06 Variety piece, are depicted in both.
“How, given all this, can they not be considered as a single unified work? What person with any respect for what Eastwood has apparently constructed here would argue for Flags to be released on 10.20.06 and Letters to be released in January ’07, which would mean that the latter wouldn’t qualify as a ’06 Best Picture candidate? Especially given one guy’s view that the Japanese film is the ‘better’ work?”