Filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was coming off the smashing critical success of his Sundance indie Me and Earl and the Dying Girl when he signed on to helm the drama Collateral Beauty, but now the director has abruptly exited the project just as filming was about to begin. Per Variety, Gomez-Rejon has departed the director’s chair on the New Line film over creative differences, with sources saying he felt like he “signed on to one film at the beginning and now felt like he was directing an entirely different project.” Will Smith remains attached to star, and while New Line was eyeing Jon Hamm and Olivia Cooke for roles, they must now turn their attention to finding a new director.
Scripted by Allan Loeb, the story revolves around a New York advertising executive who experiences a personal tragedy and falls into a deep depression, after which his colleagues resort to an “unconventional plan” to help get him out of it. Gomez-Rejon actually started with two different actors in the leads, Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara, but they departed over scheduling issues.
It’s unclear what these “creative differences” were, but they must have been severe seeing as how Gomez-Rejon left the project so late in the game. It’s possible that in signing a “movie star” like Smith, New Line was looking to take the movie in a more commercial direction—when Jackman dropped out, they were initially courting Johnny Depp as his replacement. Regardless, I’m sad to see him leave since Me and Earl showed tremendous promise and I was looking forward to seeing the fruits of his collaboration with Smith.
But Gomez-Rejon isn’t entirely devoid of projects. He recently signed on to develop and direct The Current War at The Weinstein Company with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Thomas Edison and Jake Gyllenhaal as George Westinghouse. It’s possible he will now turn his attention to that long-developing drama. As for Collateral Beauty, New Line and Anonymous Content remain committed and they have a movie star set in the lead, so if they can find a replacement director quickly enough, it’ll likely continue to move forward.