James Woods: the tragedy of current film preservation efforts

News James Woods
28 Mar 2013 - 06:33

Why are films of the 80s and 90s not being preserved properly, asks James Woods? And why isn't there a complete print of Salvador available?

Well, this never happens. Earlier in the week, we posted a piece that looked at the many underappreciated movies in the career of one of our favourite actors, James Woods. You can read that piece here.

While we were sat bleary eyed, rapidly injecting coffee the following morning, an e-mail landed in our inbox. We read who it was from. Drank more coffee. Looked around to see if someone was playing a prank. And then realised it was the real deal. It was indeed from Mr James Woods, who, in further mails, has given us permission to post what he said.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to hand you over to the man himself...

I just wanted to thank you for your truly lovely article celebrating some films that I cherish and which indeed have 'slipped under the rug'. Best Seller was my late dear Mom's favorite, for example, and Nixon is one of mine because it was a challenge to my longtime friend and collaborator, Oliver Stone. When I asked to do the part, he said I was emotionally incapable of being as 'compressed' as Haldeman was in real life. On the basis or our working history, he let me take the shot, and we both ended up happy with the result.

One of the reasons I liked your article, however, goes beyond me (every actor's favorite word, smile), and points out a tragedy regarding current efforts in film preservation.

My career peak chronologically occurred in the 80s and 90s, naturally enough because those were my 30s through 50s, the 'right' age for leading roles. It has come to my attention that many of the films made during that era were independently produced films. Because of an anomaly in current world copyright laws, 'authorship' of a film is held by any person or company owning the negative. Sadly many great films of that era have been butchered to fit television broadcast schedules and negatives lost forever. Independent films remain particularly vulnerable as those negatives and rights are not protected by powerful studios. Often times the original production entities no longer even exist and the principals may be dead.

When Oliver and I presented the 25th anniversary projection of Salvador at the New York Film Festival just two years ago, four small scenes were missing from the film! I have asked Marty Scorsese to have his magnificent Film Foundation preservation organization start to focus on films of the 80s and 90s.

Hopefully articles like this very kind one you wrote about my films will alert my industry to unite and save these 'lost' movies before it's too late.

Again thanks so much for thinking of me. I love what I do and so appreciate film 'geeks' like yourselves and my terrific fans who posted such nice comments on your blog.

We'll be following up on Mr Woods' comments on film preservation in a future piece.

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