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For every successful movie at the box office, there's one that doesn't live up to expectations. Every actor has had to deal with the difficulties of their movie not having the impact that they wish it did. Most of the time, the actor just moves on, but there's one bad break Matt Damon can't get over. He's still upset that All the Pretty Horses never found an audience or resonated with critics. Although, much of that he lays at the feet of the changes the studio made to the film.
Matt Damon exploded on the scene in 1997 with his Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting. The actor then became an action superstar in 2002 with The Bourne Identity. In the five years in between those films, Damon made several movies. Some were hits, others were not. But he tells GQ that the one that he's "clearly never gonna get over" is All the Pretty Horses . He says that thinking about the film's failure just depresses him. What really kills him though, is that director Billy Bob Thornton never got to release the version of the film that he really wanted to. Thornton and producer Harvey Weinstein would go back and forth on the changes in conference calls daily. Apparently, Damon was on the phone when Thornton finally gave up.
Billy's heart was fucking breaking. [When] he relented, he said, 'Harvey, I have a chance to do four, maybe five great things before I die. And what I'm hearing you say to me is this isn't gonna be one of them.' And my knees literally buckled.
It's been sixteen years since All the Pretty Horses was released and reading this is breaking my heart right now. There were apparently a couple of reasons that Miramax wanted to make changes. First off, according to Harvey Weinstein in the same GQ interview, Billy Bob Thornton's cut was something around four hours long, and it put studio executives to sleep. The final cut of the movie clocks in at one hour and 56 minutes, which means that as much as half the movie may have been lost in the editing room.
The other problem was, for some reason, the music. The score had originally been recorded by Thornton's Sling Blade composer Daniel Lanois, but the studio replaced the music entirely. Damon says that music was really what made the movie great. The studio offered to release Billy Bob Thornton's version of the film on DVD, but Lanois has refused to allow his music to be used, feeling that if it wasn't good enough for theatrical release, then it was just not worth it. Thornton has stood by his friend's decision.
All the Pretty Horses may not have been a financial or critical success, but maybe that's because we've never actually seen the complete film. Maybe someday we'll have that option.