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Southland Tales Snyder Cut-Style Reinvention Plans Teased by Director Richard Kelly

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The unprecedented effort that has gone into making the soon-to-be-released The Snyder Cut a reality has other directors wondering which of their previous cinematic efforts could benefit from a similar tampering. One such director is Donnie Darko’s Richard Kelly, who is hopeful that the new investment in streaming platforms will allow him to realise the original vision that he had for his 2006 comedy thriller, Southland Tales.

“We are entering into a new world of digesting narratives, and with the sort of streaming platforms, we have sort of trained the audience into being more open to digesting longer stories that sort of exist in that netherworld that exists between a feature film and a long-form television series. You see what Steve McQueen has just done with the Small Axe anthology on Amazon and you’re seeing what Zack Snyder is working on with Justice League, and I think that if you have a film that can’t really exist normally in the traditional theatrical distribution space, that has these running time requirements, you look at what Scorsese did with The Irishman. These are films that need to exist in a streaming platform but they’re still films.”

Ultimately, Richard Kelly is enthralled by the creative freedom that streaming allows, as well as the consistency to storytelling that comes with being helmed by just one person.

“They have the authorship of they’re all directed by the same person and the same screenwriter and the same cinematographer. That’s what’s most exciting about the streaming revolution that we’re experiencing right now, is maybe we’ll start to expand the definition of what a film is. If it has a single director and a single screenwriter and it meets the general criteria of what a film is, I think we can maybe see an expansion of that definition. Even the way the Oscars are changing their rules in terms of streaming and eligibility, the streaming world can maybe start to imagine what a feature film is. I’m trying to embrace all this change with a positive attitude and if it affords me the opportunity to revisit something like Southland Tales…that’s very exciting to me, and I’m going to lean into that and I’m going to do the work and do my best to try and sell everyone on the idea.”


Going back and reimagining Southland Tales in the way he had always envisioned has been playing on Kelly’s mind for some time, and the director has now revealed what his plan would be should he be given the opportunity.

“There’s been a significant amount of work done on revisiting Southland Tales. I’m actually putting together a polish on what I’m putting together, which is a polish on it, which is using the graphic novel prequels that were published….You’ll see in the existing version of Southland Tales is chapters 4-6, so there’s basically a prequel companion film that could, if it’s made, theoretically continue onward into an expanded version of the existing film with new footage, and the most ideal version it would basically be a six-hour film, split in two, and within each film there’s 3 chapters. So it’s like a six-chapter story, but it would be presented in two epic movies, like a big double feature, that in an ideal world could exist on a streaming platform of something that is more amenable to these sort of long-form stories. If people want to skip forward to the chapters, they would have that option, but in an ideal world it would be presented as a six-hour project split into two big feature films.”

Kelly has been working hard to turn the Southland Tales: The Prequel Saga graphic novels into a workable screenplay, with the filmmaker hoping that just one of the many streaming platforms that now exist will put some faith in his vision and allow him to tell the “long-form” story that currently resides solely in his imagination.

“There’s definitely been an enormous amount of work that I’ve done taking the graphic novels and expanding them and adapting them into new screenplays, which is the first three chapters and then new material that would be incorporated into the existing film. So that is like the most exciting and ambitious version of what I would love to do with Southland Tales, and obviously there’s all sorts of caveats and questions surrounding all that, but it’s been very therapeutic for me to do the work and to try and put it together and have it ready for people to look at and to decide whether that’s something worth pursuing. I’m very excited by it and I feel like there’s definitely a lot more there in this world, that’s worth of exploration, and there’s a lot of new, surprising things that I think could really make it a much more satisfying experience. It was never really going to be a satisfying story within the parameters of a single feature film; it was just too much to fit into those parameters.”

Frankly, while Southland Tales hardly enamoured critics or audiences, it would feel like a waste were Kelly not given the chance to create his director’s cut, considering all the time and effort that he has put into the project.

The version of Southland Tales that hit theaters back in 2006 picks up in the then near future of 2008 and takes place during a three-day heatwave just before a huge 4th of July celebration. With the United States under the threat of nuclear attack, an action star stricken with amnesia meets up with a porn star who is developing her own reality TV project, and a policeman who holds the key to a vast conspiracy. Meanwhile, Marxist revolutionaries, greedy corporations and secretive government agencies pursue their separate agendas among a paranoid populace.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, and Justin Timberlake, the movie is a portrait of Los Angeles, as well as a satiric commentary on the military-industrial complex and the infotainment industry. Southland Tales was largely criticized for being incoherent, something which Kelly would no doubt love to address with a much lengthier version.

Southland Tales is being released on Blu-ray on January 26, 2021 and will feature 15 minutes of additional footage not seen in the theatrical version. This comes to us courtesy of

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