Joe Carnahan talks STRETCH; why Universal dropped it, and what's its current status

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Slashfilm has done a massive interview with writer/director Joe Carnahan (NARC, Smoking Aces, The A-Team, The Grey), so massive that it needs to be split into three parts. The first part is out, and in it Carnahan talks about a myriad of topics like the success of the Marvel movies, how he may be doing that Death Wish remake after all, and what he is doing in the TV space currently (something to do with Katherine Heigl… for real).

But they also ask him about Stretch, a tightly budgeted action comedy produced by Jason Blumhouse (Insidious, Sinister, Paranormal Activity), about a down-on-his-luck limo driver who picks up a shady billionaire that makes his life hell for one night, starring Chris Pine, Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms,  Jessica Alba, James Badge Dale, Ray Liotta and  even David Hasselhoff, which Carnahan had already finished shooting last year. So why haven’t you seen this movie then? Well, that’s because after principal photography had already wrapped, Universal Pictures – in what was described as an unprecedented move -decided to pull the plug as they thought the marketing would be too expensive. But that hasn’t stopped Carnahan from still polishing the film up and trying to get it released somehow.

“…Listen, [Stretch] was a five million dollar film. It was 23 days. I love Patrick Wilson. I love Chris Pine. And we made what I consider, and I’m telling you, dude, wait till you see this film. It’s fucking great. The problem right now is it’s like a kid that’s wandering around the house. He’s dirty, he needs a haircut, he needs a new set of clothes. If you just put that on him, scrub him up and you send him out in the world, he can make a living. It’s like I just need to finish this properly. And because of this Blumhouse model, it’s like ‘Well there’s X amount of dollars.’ And, you know, the songs I want, which are so huge and such a part of the film, exceed the bandwidth of the budgetary thing. So there’s that. There’s a lot of things.”

Carnahan realizes though that one of the reasons Universal backed off, was because the movie may be a little hard to sell, something that he just didn’t see at the time.

“…I guess the most disappointing part of that whole thing is that the movie’s so good, and I have final cut, and I guess I was also kind of resistant to whatever notes I was hearing, which didn’t really jibe with what we had in mind. The movie I ultimately wanted to make. Now, in doing so and looking at what you’re marketing, it’s something that’s quirky. I didn’t think it was quirky. But, you know, I also think Ed Helms’ character [major spoiler  – highlight to reveal] blowing his head off in his hotel is really funny.”

“But it may not be shared. You know what I mean? That’s not a mass market kind of moment. And I understand that. But I also thought, ‘Well that’s why you make it for five million bucks.’ But yeah, to hear 25, 40 million dollars [to market it], okay, I guess that makes sense. I don’t know why we’re still marketing films that way. Do you know what I mean?”

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But hard to market or not, Carnahan still wants to see his movie realized, irrespective of whether some people may not like what they see on screen or not, which is something that he has some experience with.

“But like for everything you need, you can’t just be “it’s only this way.” But again, I get it, man. It’s Universal. It’s a studio. They have a way of doing things. I respect that. I appreciate it. And all films aren’t for all people. But, dude, the final summation of that movie will be in the way that I knew…. Dude, no matter how derided or vilified at the time Smokin’ Aces was – people loved it, people hated it – I always knew that that film would have a tremendous repeat appeal. I knew that and to this day, Germain, I swear to God, out of all the residual checks I’ve gotten of stuff, nothing has ever touched Smokin’ Aces. I still get these checks and I go, “What the fuck is, I can’t believe that this is still out?’ But I knew at the time and I’m telling you, dude, I feel that way about Stretch tenfold.

It’s just one of those movies that people will watch and go, ‘I wanna see that again.’ I wanna watch it again ’cause it’s so… Patrick is brilliant in it. He’s funny as hell. Chris Pine, I think I probably didn’t help myself. One of the things I heard on the foreign side was ‘Well it’s not the Chris Pine from Star Trek. He’s got a big beard. He looks like Charles Manson.’ And I get that. You know, dude, I was maybe unconsciously doing these things that were gonna limit how wide or how broad an audience.

But I still think the proof will be in the pudding when when people can finally see it. Which I’m hoping will be very shortly. You know, it’ll all come out in the wash. That much I know. Everything else, whatever, brother, it’s anecdotal. It’s historical. But at the end of the day, all we owe that film is the absolute best shot we can give it, which is finishing it properly and putting it out there in a way that is in line with what I intended. You know what I mean?”

Oh I know exactly what you mean, Mr. Carnahan. I’ve been a fan of Carnahan’s ever since The Ticker, the short film he did for BMW as part of the brilliantly cinematic ad campaign from a few years ago. I think he’s a far stronger director than writer, but he always brings something interesting to his work. And by the sound of things, Stretch is definitely interesting. Hopefully, we actually get to see it.

Last Updated: May 9, 2014

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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