By Gregg Goldstein and Borys KitTue
Mar 25, 9:24 AM ET
The geeks have been heard.
Faced with a grassroots boycott of its films, bicoastal protests at screenings of its Friday opener "Superhero Movie" and a campaign calling its co-chairman "Darth Weinstein," indie studio Weinstein Co. said Monday that it now plans to release two versions of its "Star Wars"-inspired comedy "Fanboys."
Weinstein said it will release the two versions on DVD, and a studio source later said that is exploring two theatrical versions.
"Fanboys," about four diehard "Star Wars" fans who break into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in order to see "The Phantom Menace" on the eve of its release, wrapped production two years ago and has been stuck in limbo as a tug-of-war between Harvey Weinstein and the filmmakers waged over competing versions of the movie.
The latest announcement did nothing to satisfy the filmmakers, who accuse the company of only putting out the announcement in order to sidestep a meltdown at this weekend's box office.
"This is more about avoiding picket lines at 'Superhero' than it was about making a decision about the release of our movie," said Kevin Mann, one of the producers.
Mann -- along with producer Matthew Perniciaro, director Kyle Newman and writer Ernie Cline, who originated the story -- worked on "Fanboys" in 2003 with Kevin Spacey's Trigger Street production company coming on board in 2005. The cast, including then up-and-comers Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, Seth Rogen and Dan Fogler, all signed up for a script that one year made the Blacklist, the annual industry ranking of the top scripts in town. Footage began making the rounds at "Star Wars" festivals, while 40 minutes of "Fanboys"' rough cut was screened at Star Wars Celebration and Comic-Con, where it was enthusiastically received by a standing-room-only crowd last year.
The Weinstein Co. picked up the project in late 2005, and following production slated "Fanboys" for release August 17, 2007. That got pushed back to a January 18 release. Then it went off the grid altogether.
Insiders said the root of the problem was Weinstein's issue with the underlying story in "Fanboys." The cross-country adventure is put in motion because one of the characters is facing cancer. Late last year, the company decided it would do reshoots, hiring Judd Apatow's producing partner Shauna Robertson to oversee a $2 million reshoot of four scenes done by director Steve Brill ("Drillbit Taylor"). That, combined with re-editing, created a version that excised the cancer subplot.
"Harvey feels it's hard to market, especially with this cast," an insider said. "He wants to market to a more teen audience. The filmmakers wanted a dramedy along the vein of 'Stand by Me."'
The Weinstein Co. this year began testing both versions. Unprompted by the filmmakers, "Star Wars" fans began uniting to oppose the noncancer version, led by the 501st, a "Star Wars" fan group named after a fictional battalion. The group created the Web site http://committed.to/stopdarthweinstein that provided updates on developments while also lampooning Harvey Weinstein by Photoshopping him in Darth Vader drag.
The test screenings yielded a minuscule win for the noncancer version -- one insider said the difference was only two test points -- but that only emboldened the geeks. And some of the producers remained unmoved.
"The original reason we wanted to get involved with this script was because it was a comedy with heart," Mann said. "In my opinion, when the cancer was taken out, the heart went with it."
The fans' ire was raised even more when they discovered that Brill had joined a chat session under the screen name "GL," which fans interpreted to be George Lucas. The online discussion turned nasty with threats from both sides.
The new announcement still leaves the movie up in the air. It still has no release date, only a promise that both versions will be available on DVD. Late Monday, a Weinstein source said, "We're making a very strong attempt to make both films available theatrically as well."
The 501st was unimpressed with the Weinstein Co.'s move.
"This is clearly a vain attempt by the Weinstein Co. to avert 'Star Wars' fans' impending boycott of all of their films," the group said. "It's not going to work, Darth Weinstein. There was never any doubt that you would release both versions of the movie on DVD, probably months apart, so as to leech as much money from 'Star Wars' fans as possible. Our boycott will continue until the Weinstein Co. announces that they are returning control of 'Fanboys' to the 'Star Wars' fans who made it, releasing the original version in theaters and doing away with their anti-fan version of the film altogether."
The company Monday acknowledged that it had received more than 300,000 e-mails, which factored in its decision.
"While the later version tested very well with audiences, the grassroots support we have received for the first version simply cannot be ignored," a Weinstein spokesman said.
The filmmakers had a more measured response than the fans, hoping to be given a chance to work the film some more.
"If they want to excise the cancer or reshoot again, I'll cooperate," Trigger Street producer Dana Brunetti said. "One tested better than the other, so I see both sides to it.
"We're too close to the movie to be objective, but we know which we consider better," he added with a laugh. "I've always been content with the (original cut of) the movie."
Harvey Weinstein has a history of tangling with filmmakers over their films' edits, earning him the moniker "Harvey Scissorhands" in some circles, but he seems to have met his match with a legion of "Star Wars" fans.
The possibility of a theatrical release was encouraging to both Newman and Brunetti.
"It will be interesting to see what version comes out theatrically, if it does at all," Brunetti said. "We're hoping to meet somewhere in the middle between the two."
The Rebellion Wins! FANBOYS is back in Fanboys' hands! The Victory
Hey folks, Harry here... Somewhere in this world a lot of us are
smiling! The Force is strong with you folks - and it made its
presence known and this victory was brought to my attentions via
Yoko who is quite excited that the version we saw nearly 2 years ago
is where the film is headed again. So feel good - and look sharp for
tickets at Comic Con - the real FANBOYS is coming!
Fellow Star Wars Fans,
The battle to save Fanboys is over! AND WE WON!
The Weinstein Company has decided to listen to the outcry from Star
Wars fans around the globe! They have restored the original plotline
and have given the movie back to the Star Wars fans who made it!
The film has been given back to the original director and he is
currently editing the final version at Skywalker Ranch! The original
cut of the movie will be released in theaters later this year! And
there are rumors of a sneak preview of the film happening at the San
We hereby end our boycott of the Weinstein Company! The studio has
earned our respect and gratitude by actually listening to their
Our thanks go out to everyone who lent their voices to the Stop
Darth Weinstein campaign, and to the thousands of fans who took the
time to email the studio.
When the original version of Fanboys is released later this year you
should all take pride in knowing that you helped make it happen!
When the official release date for Fanboys is announced we will post
May the Force Be With You Always!
& the SDW Squadron
Exclusive Fanboys Video Interviews
It's been a long and rocky road for the release of Kyle Newman's Fanboys with delays, rewrites, reshoots and, for a time, a completely different director. Fanboys has now finally launched into a limited theatrical release with Newman back at the helm and his original vision for the film restored.
Set in 1998, just prior to the release of "The Phantom Menace", Fanboys tells the story of a group of friends who, upon learning that one of their group has terminal cancer, set off on a pilgrimage across the country to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch, determined to break in and see the film together while they still can.
Starring Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, Dan Fogler, Sam Huntington and Chris Marquette, alongside a dozen surprise guest-stars, Fanboys aims to blend comedy with late 90's pop-nostalgia.
ComingSoon.net got a chance to chat with Fogler, Huntington and Marquette about the film, their off-screen love of "Star Wars" and what it means to be a fanboy.
Watch the interviews.