Grace Kelly Biopic: French Director And U.S. Distributor Fight Over Concept

Grace Kelly was always the center of attention during her life. Now, 30 years after her death in a car accident, she is still being spoken of, but in a totally different context.

A new movie about Kelly, called “Grace of Monaco” has another Hollywood icon, Nicole Kidman, portraying the former star turned princess. The movie is set to open the Cannes Film Festival in ten days time, but is in the middle of a battle between the U.S. distributor Harvey Weinstein and French filmmakers Olivier Dahan and Pierre-Ange Le Pogam. They are fighting over what should be “the proper tone of the film.”

Weinstein wanted to depict Grace Kelly in the setting of a light-hearted fairy tale. Director Dahan and producer Le Pogam have created a more melodramatic‎ account, highlighting Kelly’s difficulties following her marriage to Prince Rainier. It is the French cut of the film that will be shown at Cannes’ opening night.

The controversy is casting a shadow over the festival, but the dispute is over a basic principle — namely, who has the right to determine the legacy of Grace Kelly.

Weinstein is claiming that the French filmmakers made certain promises, which they subsequently broke. This added substantial costs to the re-cut version that Weinstein wanted for the U.S. market.

Weinstein had worked out a new version with a team of editors last fall. When Dahan saw that version he exploded, and told the French newspaper Liberacion in November:

“When you confront an American distributor like Weinstein, not to name names, there is not much you can do. Either you say, ‘Go figure it out with your pile of …’ or you brace yourself so the blackmail isn’t as violent.”

The absurdity of the dispute is that, according to those familiar with both versions, the two cuts deviate only in about five minutes’ worth of scenes. However, they are critical moments, spelling big differences in the overall feel of the film.

Arash Amel, the film’s screenwriter who also served as one of its producers, said, “It is strange to have two fundamentally different movies based on one set of pages. It almost feels like I’ve written a play and I’m seeing two different stagings of the work.”

Kelly first met Prince Rainier at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 — and married him the following year, giving up a career in Hollywood to start a new life and family in Monaco.

The Weinstein version tells that story like a romantic comedy. The French version is a darker and more tragic concept in which Kelly battles with a moody Prince Rainier, and suffers in several scenes as the fairy-tale aspects are replaced by melodrama.

Amel comments. “I think every country in the world will see this story a little bit differently,” America and France are just the furthest apart on that spectrum.”

The truth about the real Grace Kelly is never going to come from a movie concerned with box-office takings and the bottom line.