The absolute post-production disaster that is Kenneth Lonergan‘s Margaret will finally open on 9.30, a full six years after it began principal photography. The problem with releasing films this old is that they look like period pieces. The present-tense Anna Paquin in True Blood is a blonde, lithe, aerobicized hottie. But in Lonergan’s film she’s chubby and dark-haired. How odd that Fox Searchlight chose to point this out on the one-sheet.

From the film’s Wiki page:

“Court documents show Margaret started filming in New York in September 2005 and wrapped photography about three months later. It was in the editing room, interviews and court records show, that everything fell apart.

“Even though he had made only one movie, Lonergan enjoyed ‘final cut’ status as a director, a level of creative autonomy typically enjoyed by A-listers such as Steven Spielberg. That status meant that as long as certain conditions were met (including a running time not to exceed 150 minutes), Lonergan could personally dictate the film’s final form — neither the studio nor Gilbert could take it away from him.

“Why Lonergan couldn’t finish a version of the film he liked is central to the dispute. Even Lonergan’s supporters say he is an exacting perfectionist who struggled to find the movie within the footage he had shot. Gilbert’s advocates say (and his lawsuit alleges) that the producer gave Lonergan countless chances to finish the movie but that Lonergan failed to take anyone’s counsel.

“‘Previews and screenings were scheduled throughout 2006, yet they had to be canceled time and again due to Lonergan’s refusal or inability to produce a cut of the picture,’ Gilbert argued in his suit against Lonergan and Fox Searchlight.

“A number of producers and editors — including Scott Rudin, Sydney Pollack and Thelma Schoonmaker — have tried but failed to help Lonergan complete his movie. Gilbert in his legal papers says that Lonergan ‘failed to keep regular hours’, that producer Pollack cut short an editing session ‘having become disgusted by, and frustrated with, Lonergan’s unprofessional and irrational behavior’, and that Lonergan ‘did not listen to, or implement’ editor Schoonmaker’s suggestions.

“Gilbert said that when Fox Searchlight refused to pay for additional post-production costs, he footed the bill. At some point around that time, Lonergan borrowed more than $1 million from actor and close friend Matthew Broderick (who has a small part in Margaret) in an attempt to complete the editing of the movie, according to a person close to the production.”

Deadline‘s Pete Hammond has just reported about a conversation with a Fox Searchlight staffer.

“When I asked another staffer about the long five-year delay of Kenneth Lonergan‘s Margaret, now finally getting a limited release on September 30th, I just got a look of pure frustration. Contractually the film, which once ran more than 3 hours, must come in under 2 1/2 hours. Official time I am told is now 2 hours, 29 minutes, and 40 seconds. ‘There’s a good movie in there somewhere,’ the staffer said. Not everything can be a winner.”