In Unprecedented Move, Joe Johnston and Lasse Hallstrom to Share Director Credit on ‘The Nutcracker’

     July 6, 2018

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History is being made on Disney’s upcoming ambitious adaptation The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, at least officially. The big-budget fantasy originated with director Lasse Hallstrom, whose credits range from The Cider House Rules to Chocolat. Working from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Ashleigh Powell, he crafted an opulent take on the classic Nutcracker story, with an ensemble that includes Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren. However, in December of last year, we learned the film would be undergoing reshoots, with Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) stepping in to take over as director.

At the time, it was reported that Hallstrom was unable to direct the reshoots himself due to scheduling issues, but would be rejoining the production during post-production. Moreover, Johnston wouldn’t just be shooting a couple new scenes here and there—he was set to direct 32 days of reshoots, with new scenes scripted by Oscar-winning Spotlight co-writer Tom McCarthy.

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Image via Disney

Now, in a break from recent trends, THR reports that Hallstrom and Johnston have agreed to share director credit on the film, marking what appears to be an unprecedented move from the DGA. Indeed, the DGA’s traditional position is that only one director may receive credit for directing a film unless it’s directed by an established team that has a history of working together, like The Coen Brothers and The Russo Brothers.

The DGA told THR they could not immediately recall a similar situation where two directors who are not an established team voluntarily share credit, but that’s exactly what happened here and the DGA acquiesced. Apparently Hallstrom voluntarily agreed to share director credit with Johnston before the DGA became involved in figuring out who deserved credit, and the two filmmakers went to Disney and the DGA for approval. Hallstrom’s name will appear first on the title card for the finished film, with Johnston’s name appearing just below it on the same card.

Similar situations have arisen recently that played out very, very differently. Joss Whedon stepped in to direct extensive reshoots on Justice League, but he didn’t seek a director credit on the film. Instead, he was given a screenplay credit while Zack Snyder remained the credited director of the Warner Bros. superhero epic. In the case of Solo: A Star Wars Story, director Ron Howard took over when Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired during production. Howard shot extensive reshoots, and when Lord and Miller saw a cut of the film in December, they reportedly decided to take their names off the film and go with executive producer credits instead. And then Bryan Singer was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody and replaced with Dexter Fletcher, who directed a few weeks of principal photography and oversaw post-production, but Singer will officially be the credited director on the project.

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Image via Disney

But whereas those cases were a little contentious, Hallstrom and Johnston are all smiles (at least publicly). In a statement to THR, Hallstrom praised Johnston’s contributions:

“It was an absolute blessing to have Joe Johnston step in when it became clear that I wouldn’t be available for reshoots. Joe is the ultimate expert in visual effects and I enjoyed collaborating with him on this film.”

Johnston, meanwhile, elicited a “right back at ya bud”:

“I watched an early cut of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and I saw something unique and fresh. When I was asked to direct the remaining elements, I saw an opportunity to complete Lasse’s wonderful and wildly inventive vision. I know we’ll both be proud of the end result.”

This isn’t the first time Johnston has stepped in on a project he didn’t create. When Mark Romanek left Universal’s The Wolfman abruptly, weeks before filming was to begin, Johnston took over and saw the film to completion. Clearly Disney has high hopes for The Nutcracker, and while these extensive reshoots could have been cause for concern, all parties involved have handled this pretty swimmingly. It’ll be interesting to see how the finished film shapes up when it hits theaters on November 2nd.

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