"Margaret" was a butterfly caught in a spider's web of lawsuits.
Kenneth Lonergan's highly anticipated film following the critically adored "You Can Count On Me" was dubbed a masterpiece by Martin Scorsese.
But as the writer-director struggled to pare the footage down to the 150-minute time limit, the financial titans backing it — Fox Searchlight and producer Gary Gilbert — clashed, and the film got snared in a sticky legal tangle.
A New York Times Magazine story published Tuesday revealed that, in the wake of Lonergan's critical success in 2000 with "You Can Count On Me," the screenwriter was given complete control over 2005's "Margaret," as long as he edited the running time down to two-and-a-half hours.
"Margaret" had everything going for it: The cast included Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Matthew Broderick, Lonergan's best friend. Hollywood heavyweights Scott Rudin and Sydney Pollack were among the movie's several credited producers.
Yet the footage languished for months as Lonergan struggled to trim the fat of what he felt was as lean a narrative as he could make it.
He asked Ruffalo and others to watch the three-hour version of the film and help him identify scenes to cut.
"And I said: 'Kenny, you made a masterpiece. Unfortunately it's in the wrong decade and the wrong country'," Ruffalo told Joel Lovell, the magazine's deputy editor. "I'm pretty merciless. … I'm not precious about this stuff. But it was like trying to move a house of cards a hundred yards in a windstorm. Once you pull out a single thread, the whole thing falls down."
But the strongest gusts came from Gilbert, who grew increasingly frustrated with Lonergan's delay and eventually hired another editor to create a two-hour version of the film, a version Lonergan wouldn't approve.
After years of legal wrangling — three lawsuits in all — "Margaret" will be released July 9 on DVD with both Lonergan's theatrical cut and a three-hour-plus extended version.