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Coming soon to a courtroom near you: The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
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It’s a battle bloody enough to make Leatherface squeamish. As this column reported in March, the creators of The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre have been trying for more than a year to get Columbia/TriStar Home Video to release the film, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger and is the third sequel to the 1974 horror classic. Now the matter is going to court. Producer Bob Kuhn and writer-director Kim Henkel have filed suit, alleging they were “fraudulently induced” to enter into their contract with the distributor, which paid $1.35 million for the rights to release the film nationally and vowed to spend at least $500,000 on advertising and marketing. Kuhn believes Columbia/TriStar never intends to release it, so he wants the rights back, plus several million dollars in punitive damages, since he thinks the film has been “degraded” by trailers promoting a release that has never occurred. Meanwhile, the trustee for the original Chainsaw’s owners, Charles Grigson, has sued Kuhn and Henkel and Columbia/TriStar. Before Kuhn and Henkel could shoot the sequel, they had to secure the rights to the franchise, so they paid the owners $200,000 against 5 percent of the gross theatrical receipts after production costs were recouped. No release, no receipts—so Grigson is demanding “a good faith national release, with the kind of publicity campaign warranted by a McConaughey or a Zellweger,” or else several million dollars in damages. How does Columbia/TriStar respond? Its attorney, Dan Davison of Fulbright and Jaworski’s Dallas office, says his client “does not comment on pending litigation.”
In a June interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Austin auteur Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia) talked about the challenge of shooting The Newton Boys, a film whose plot is ripped from the pages of Texas history. “When in doubt, whenever we’ve strayed, we’ve just gone back to what really happened,” he said. “The truth is a good backbone.” Fair enough—yet how to explain a lingering question about Linklater’s own history? In the Statesman story and others that appeared recently in the San Antonio Express-News and Entertainment Weekly, Linklater’s age was given as 35. But according to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the registrars of the college and high school he attended, Linklater was born on July 30, 1960, which would make him nearly two years older. So what gives? One possibility is that the media are simply mistaken. The Statesman has misreported, for instance, that Linklater graduated from high school in 1980 (it was 1979), and within Time Warner’s Pathfinder Web site, his year of birth is given alternately as 1961 and 1962—both wrong; Texas Monthly has also printed his age incorrectly. Another theory, floated in Details magazine several years back by TM’s Jason Cohen, is that Linklater has been perpetrating a “fiction” for public-relations reasons. Back when his generational angst flick Slacker was released in 1991, Linklater was 31, but the theory goes that he saw a benefit in being under 30, so he presented himself as 29, a discrepancy that exists to this day. Whatever the case, the only one who knows the truth is Linklater, and he wouldn’t respond to a request for an interview on the subject.