Fans of You Can Count On Me were forced to wait 11 years for director Kenneth Lonergan’s second film. Filmed way back in 2005, Margaret is the harrowing story of a manipulative New York City teenager (Anna Paquin) whose involvement in a fatal bus accident thrusts her into an adult world she’s unprepared to navigate. The movie, which features an all-star cast that also includes Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Matthew Broderick, seemed doomed to eternal limbo when the director, his producers, and Fox Searchlight could not agree on a final cut. Lonergan had been promised total control, as long as his finished film was less than 150 minutes long. Unfortunately, the cut he originally submitted ran longer than three hours. Lawsuits were exchanged. For years, neither side blinked, and the film nearly passed into oblivion as its stars moved on to bigger things. (Paquin found True Blood, Damon went back to the Bourne franchise, Ruffalo earned an Oscar nomination and was cast as a raging superhero.)
When Margaret was finally released last September — with a running time of 149 minutes and 49 seconds — many would have to buy plane tickets to see it, as it never played in more than 14 theaters. Though it didn’t even gross $50,000 and was neglected by the Oscars, some critics championed the film as one of the year’s best. Tomorrow, fans of Lonergan’s work who don’t live in New York and Los Angeles can finally see it for themselves. Or more precisely, they can view two versions of the film that are included in a Blu-ray combo pack: the theatrical release and Lonergan’s extended three-hour cut.
Before the extended version of Margaret is screened tonight in New York — to be followed by a Q&A panel with Lonergan, Ruffalo, Broderick, and moderator Tony Kushner — the director checked in with Entertainment Weekly.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Margaret is a film that is difficult to shake, and there are so many themes woven throughout. As a storyteller, what was the seed of the story that everything else grew out of?
KENNETH LONERGAN: There was a girl in my high school who told me that this [bus accident] had happened to her — and that was the literal seed. I was just 16 but it always stayed with me. But I think the impetus was the idea of this girl trying to cope with all these adult problems and issues with only the equipment of a teenager to help her. It seemed compelling to me: that a very very young person confronted with death and injustice and the force of other people’s lives getting in the way of her finding what she thinks she’s going to find, which is justice and some sort of way to atone for what she’s done — which she’s unable to do. READ FULL STORY