From <i>Margaret</i> to <I>Mandy Lane</i>: Long-Delayed Films That Were (and Weren’t) Worth the Wait

In the fall of 2005, celebrated writer/director Kenneth Lonergan started shooting his sophomore feature Margaret, a drama about the aftermath of a tragic bus accident featuring a cast that included Anna Paquin, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo. Six years later, the movie is finally being released in theaters. What exactly took so long? Well, it depends on who you ask. One version of events paints Lonergan as an indecisive perfectionist that was unable to deliver a cut he was satisfied with. Another version points the finger at one of the producers, claiming he attempted to encroach on the director's contractual "final cut" provision and didn't pay his share of the movie's budget. Either way, Margaret remained trapped in limbo until Lonergan finally came up with a cut that he and the studio were ready to release. The only question now is will it be worth the protracted wait? We'll have to see come Friday, but in the meantime, here's a scorecard of some of the other recent movies that have suffered similarly long delays before hitting U.S. screens.

Prozac Nation
Years on the Shelf: 5 (Filmed in 2000; released -- on TV -- in 2005)
Reason(s) for the Delay: After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in 2001, this adaptation of Elizabeth Wutzel's best-selling memoir was picked up by Miramax, which then wrestled with how to release a movie that wasn't exactly feel-good material. That Wurtzel herself bad-mouthed the movie in the press and also made widely-condemned comments about the 9/11 attacks didn't give them any extra incentive to rush it into theaters. In the end, the film bypassed the big screen altogether in the U.S. and quietly premiered on the Starz! cable movie channel.
Worth the Wait? Wurtzel was right -- the movie is pretty terrible.

Years on the Shelf: 3; (Filmed in 2006; released in 2009)
Reason(s) for the Delay: Where to begin? After the first round of shooting wrapped on Kyle Newman's Star Wars road comedy in 2006, the studio provided the first-time feature filmmaker with the funds to film additional material. When those reshoots started in 2007 though, Newman was replaced by Steven Brill, who came aboard with the intention of adding more R-rated gags into the mix. In the meantime, The Weinstein Company was going back and forth with Newman over a storyline that had one of the lead characters suffering from cancer and prepared an alternate cut that dropped the cancer plot. After overwhelmingly negative online press, the studio ultimately brought Newman back onboard to put together his preferred version of the movie in time to premiere it at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con. Fanboys then had its release date pushed back three times before finally opening in limited release in February 2009.
Worth the Wait? Sadly, no. Newman's passion for Star Wars is obvious and the actors are game, but the movie suffers from one major flaw: It's just not funny.

Case 39
Years on the Shelf: 4 (Filmed in 2006; released in 2010)
Reason(s) for the Delay: Simply put, the studio couldn't settle on a release date for this Renee Zellweger/Bradley Cooper horror flick. Originally scheduled to hit theaters in February 2008, the movie was bumped back five times and actually opened overseas before American moviegoers got a chance to see it.
Worth the Wait? Nope. And that's probably the real reason the studio didn't feel the urge to pick a date and stick to it.

The Tree of Life
Years on the Shelf: 3 (Filmed in 2008; released in 2011)
Reason(s) for the Delay: The same thing that holds up almost every Terrence Malick movie -- an extended trip through the editing room, where the famously exacting director cuts and re-cuts scenes until he's absolutely satisfied. Tree was also held up by the dissolution of its original distributor in 2010, at which point Fox Searchlight (the same studio that's behind Margaret) picked it up and scheduled it for a May 2011 release.
Worth the Wait? Most definitely. Tree is one of the year's most acclaimed movies, scooping up the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and will likely receive a few Oscar nods as well.

Take Me Home Tonight
Years on the Shelf: 4 (Filmed in 2007; released in 2011)
Reason(s) for the Delay: According to star Topher Grace, Universal got cold feet about releasing this '80s-set comedy due to the characters' prodigious cocaine use and held off on releasing it until they were able to unload the movie on another distributor, specifically Relativity Media.
Worth the Wait? While it's no lost classic, Take Me Home Tonight is a decent nostalgia piece enlivened considerably by its cast -- including Grace, Anna Faris, Demetri Martin and Lucy Punch. It's a fine way to kill 90 minutes late at night if you're awake and bored... or high.

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
Years on the Shelf: 3 (Filmed in 2008; released in 2011)
Reason(s) for the Delay: Because it took that long for the independently-financed sex comedy to find a distributor, despite an ensemble that included such familiar faces as Jason Sudeikis, Lake Bell, Will Forte and Lindsay Sloane.
Worth the Wait? Not according to us.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Years on the Shelf: 5 and counting (Filmed in 2006 and has yet to be released in the U.S.) Reason(s) for the Delay: The feature debut of Jonathan Levine (who also helmed this week's 50/50) and the first starring role for Amber Heard (who currently headlines The Playboy Club), this horror film has been on the verge of release several times, only to be put back on the shelf at the last minute. First, The Weinstein Company was set to release it in 2007, but the studio opted to sell the movie to another distributor, Senator Entertainment, which kept bumping its release date around until the company went out of business altogether. Currently, the movie is trapped in distribution limbo, although the truly curious can purchase it on an imported Region 2 DVD.
Worth the Wait? We caught the movie several years ago just when it was about to be released for the second or third time. Let's just say you're not missing much.

Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn
Years on the Shelf: 2 and counting (Both filmed in 2009 and have yet to be released in the U.S.)
Reason(s) for the Delay: Both Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's much-anticipated take on the "remote cabin" horror movie subgenre and Dan Bradley's remake of the early '80s Cold War action hit were greenlit by the struggling MGM during one its brief periods of financial solvency. Not long after shooting wrapped, the studio's money woes put the kibosh on any kind of a wide release. In the meantime, both films underwent some tinkering -- Cabin in the Woods was converted to 3D, while Red Dawn switched the nationality of the invading army from Chinese to North Korean. Both movies have now been acquired by other distributors -- Lionsgate took Cabin and FilmDistrict scooped up Dawn -- and have tentative 2012 release dates.
Worth the Wait? We'll find out next year... maybe.

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