‘Caligula: The Ultimate Cut’ to Debut at Cannes

A new version of the 1980 drama will skew closer to what the filmmakers and actors intended

Caligula: The Ultimate Cut
Caligula: The Ultimate Cut

Good news for families at Cannes who couldn’t score tickets to “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” or “Elemental”: Producer Thomas Negovan is bringing “Caligula” to Paris!

“Caligula: The Ultimate Cut” will make its debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The entirely new edit, created from scratch using over 90 hours of original camera negatives and audio recorded on-location, will feature copious never-before-seen footage featuring Helen Mirren, Malcolm McDowell and Peter O’Toole. This cut — running 157 minutes — will presumably hew closer to what the audience was supposed to see, and what the actors believed they were making, forty years ago.

Negovan will work in partnership with Kirkendoll Management, LLC and will offer this new cut of what was back in 1980 the most expensive independent film in history. The $17.5 million flick, self-financed by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, was intended to be a “new kind of film,” according to Guccione, combining art and sex.

Guccione took control of the project and junked the script, while attempting to create an edit that incorporated adult content shot after the mainstream actors completed filming their respective roles. Director Tinto Brass and writer Gore Vidal sued to have their names removed from the picture, while the composer and editor refused to take credit.

Variety called the picture a “moral holocaust,” while the late Roger Ebert disparaged the movie as “sickening, worthless trash.” However, it broke box office records and became synonymous with decadent spectacle, as the Guccione-driven edit became a kind of cinematic folk tale.

Malcolm McDowell stated in a 2007 Penthouse interview that he was “proud of the work I did in ‘Caligula;’ there’s no question about that.” He further noted in the magazine interview that “There’s all the raunchy stuff, the blatant, modern-day porn that Bob introduced into the film after we’d finished shooting. That to me was an outrageous betrayal and quite unprecedented.”

Helen Mirren called the movie “an irresistible mix of art and genitals” and enjoyed the experience of making the film, despite describing showing up to work as the equivalent to being sent down to Dante’s Inferno. She also claimed she vomited immediately after meeting co-star Peter O’Toole in his all-too-convincing costume as the syphilitic Emperor Tiberius.

“The stories about ‘what Caligula could have been’ are legendary in film circles,” says Negovan. “In this new edit honoring the original script, Malcolm McDowell’s ‘Caligula’ starts as a frightened young man who eventually seizes power, but then finds himself in the inescapable pull of deviant behavior, progressively becoming unmoored from reality and ultimately coming to terms with himself in an existential sense.”

Negovan went on to say that “All of these elements, this entire narrative arc of the character, are completely absent from the version of the movie the world has known for decades. Malcolm McDowell is a powerhouse actor at the top of his craft in this film, and I’m excited for the breathtaking performance he crafted all those years ago to move from the realm of myth onto the big screen.”