The furor over the New Yorker's decision to run a review of David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" more than a week before the embargo date heated up on Monday, as the review hit newsstands and an email exchange between critic David Denby and producer Scott Rudin spread around the web.
In the exchange, Rudin (left) calls the decision to violate the embargo "deeply lousy and immoral" and says he will no longer show Denby any of his movies.
The review is available in full only to buyers of the magazine and to subscribers who have access to the full online edition. An "abstract" of the review, which is available online, has Denby concluding, "At heart, the material is pulpy and sensational. Directed by David Fincher … this is a bleak but mesmerizing piece of filmmaking; it presents a chilled view of the world in which brief moments of loyalty flicker between repeated acts of greed and betrayal."
But "Dragon Tattoo" producer Rudin wasn't placated by Denby's praise of the movie, and he didn't buy Denby's argument that he would never have broken the embargo with a negative review, but felt it was okay to do so with a positive one.
The Playlist obtained email correspondence between Denby (right) and Rudin, in which the critic attempted to explain why he and the New Yorker opted to publish a review on Dec. 5, a full eight days in advance of the Dec. 13 date to which Rudin and Sony said Denby had agreed.
(At a Los Angeles screening attended by two representatives from TheWrap and about 15 or 20 others, a condition of the RSVP was to agree to honor that embargo date. Sony Pictures has said that attendance at the Nov. 28 New York screening Denby attended was conditional on honoring the embargo as well.)
In the emails, which Rudin confirmed to TheWrap are legitimate, Denby's reasons for violating the embargo are, to be blunt, unconvincing.
He argues that the system of releasing a glut of serious films at the end of the year is "destructive"; that the New Yorker didn't want to run a series of "tiny" reviews at Christmas, and didn't want to delay more substantial reviews of some serious films until mid-January; and that faced with the dilemma of what to put in the December 5 issue, they opted to break the embargo and go with "Dragon Tattoo," which Denby liked, instead of "'We Bought the Zoo,' or whatever it's called," which he implied that he didn't.
Denby then apologized for the breach, calling it "a special case brought on by year-end madness" that wouldn't happen again. And in a halfhearted attempt to curry favor, he congratulated Rudin on making a good movie and said he looked forward to seeing the Rudin-produced "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."
Rudin's reply cut right to the point: "Your seeing the movie was conditional on your honoring the embargo, which you agreed to do. The needs of the magazine cannot trump your word … I'm really not interested in why you did this except that you did – and you must at least own that, purely and simply, you broke your word to us and that is a deeply lousy and immoral thing to have done."
Rudin also suggested that Denby would not be invited to "Extremely Loud" or any other Rudin film, and called the critic's reasoning about "We Bought a Zoo" "nonsense."
When asked by TheWrap is he planned specific action against Denby or the New Yorker, Rudin emailed, "If you read [the emails], you'll see what action I am taking."
The fuss over Denby's review and Sony's response was a hot topic on Twitter on Sunday, with most of the opinion coming down on the side of Rudin and Sony.
"A review embargo is part of the package when you go to press screenings," tweeted critic Scott Weinberg. "You don’t get to act righteous when you decide to break it."
Wrote Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican, "Fact is, we can plan & prioritize due to early screenings. Negotiate if necessary, but don't break rules after the fact. Makes one a liar."