Rediscovering Hal Ashby

A directors cut version of Hal Ashby’s Lookin’ to Get Out will be released tomorrow. When the film was originally released in 1982, Ashby had bouts with Paramount. The director recut the film for himself before it was recut by the studio. Jon Voight, who wrote produced and starred in the film, recently discovered Ashby’s version of the film.

Voight explains: “Hal was working on two other films at the time (of the movie’s release), and there was a lot of drama. Our film was handed over to other editors, and the result was a crippled movie. We were very hurt by the reception…Finally, this is the film he intended. It’s like a message in a bottle.”

Ashby also directed Harold and Maude, Shampoo, The Last Detail, Coming Home and Being There. These films, especially Harold and Maude, have a major cult following but surprisingly few people discuss Ashby, the director. For example, I have seen these movies but never noted the director until I read this article in The Star Ledger.

Stephen Whitty also discusses a new biography about Ashby in this article. Being Hal Ashby by Nick Dawson profiles the director who had a contentious relationship with the studios and died at age 59 in 1988.

While it might not be the loudest movement in Hollywood, the rediscovery of Ashby’s work is something to be admired. I am currently reading Dawson’s biography and am looking forward to rewatching Ashby’s films with this fresh perspective.