Jim Sheridan wanted his name off 'Dream House'
EXCLUSIVE: Since it came out a week ago, Jim Sheridan’s horror picture “Dream House” hasn’t made many people happy. Less than 10% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes have given it a “fresh” rating, and the film, which stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as a couple tormented by ghosts, has taken in a paltry $9.5 million.
Apparently there was someone else who wasn’t tickled with “Dream House”: Jim Sheridan.
The six-time Oscar nominee was in fact so displeased with the finished film he sought to have his name removed from it.
This summer, the director went to the Directors Guild of America with the aim of striking his name from the credits, said two people familiar with the action who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly. If his bid had gone to term — the DGA would have had to rule that the finished film differed significantly from the movie he attempted to make — “Dream House” could have gone out with the director credit “Alan Smithee,” Hollywood’s equivalent of John Doe.
The bid was dropped after a series of events that included the company that was financing the film, Morgan Creek Productions, agreeing to a new set of reshoots. But the incident marked only the latest challenge for the genre film.
According to a person familiar with production, Sheridan began deviating from David Loucka’s script early on, using an improvisational method he favors. That was followed by a disastrous test screening, rampant anxiety at Morgan Creek, a first round of reshoots, and the production company ultimately taking control of the film in the edit room.
(Like most directors, Sheridan did not have “final cut” — essentially the right to release the movie as he would like. The film's final version, then, reflects Morgan Creek's edit of a movie that Sheridan shot.)
As the tension between the parties grew -- the movie was being released by Universal Pictures, but the company’s involvement was primarily of the marketing and distribution variety -- Sheridan moved forward with the DGA. When it came out, he also declined to do any publicity for the film.
A representative for Sheridan and a spokesman for Morgan Creek declined to comment.
The news surrounding “Dream House” underscores how much Sheridan’s Hollywood stock has dipped. The Irish-born filmmaker surged on to the movie scene in 1989, when at 40 his debut feature, “My Left Foot,” became a cultural sensation and a multiple Oscar nominee. A fact-based story about a painter with cerebral palsy, the movie wound up landing Daniel Day-Lewis a lead actor Oscar statuette and yielded director and screenplay Oscar nominations for Sheridan.
In the 13 years that followed, he wrote and directed acclaimed films such as “In the Name of the Father” and “In America.”
But Sheridan has now endured three consecutive disappointments, including 2005’s hip-hop story “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’” and “Brothers,” the Tobey Maguire-Jake Gyllenhaal 2009 remake of a Danish-language war picture.
To some, the failures are the result of Sheridan moving too far away from his wheelhouse. “Father” and “In America” are both Irish-themed stories that are close to his heart — the latter, about a poor Irish family’s arrival in New York’s rough-and-tumble Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, is semi-autobiographical — but a war picture and a horror movie are, well, not.
Perhaps as a result, Sheridan is now debating directing a smaller film, said a person familiar with his plans: “Sheriff Street Stories,” about his childhood in Ireland.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: "Dream House." Credit: Universal Pictures