While audiences weren’t initially kind to Andrew Dominik’s 2007 movie THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, the movie has since become a cult classic and considered by many as one of the best of the decade. The film has stayed in the hearts and minds of viewers thanks in large part to some undeniably amazing cinematography from Roger Deakins, and recently the legend himself said how there’s a much longer version of the movie out there that audiences didn’t get to see, and he hopes the people at Criterion will someday release it.
Deakins was speaking with Collider to promote his new movie THE GOLDFINCH when he was asked about the possibility of JESSE JAMES making it into the Criterion collection. Not only does Deakins think it belongs in the collection, but that it should be the even heftier cut of the movie that pushes the runtime well past the three-hour mark.
“It should be [on Criterion]. I would really like to see the long version, the first cut that I saw, released on Criterion. That’s what I’d hope for… It was over three hours. I don’t think it ever will, because last time I talked to Andrew about it he was quite happy with the version that got released. But I still remember that first early cut that I saw that was like three and a quarter I think, and it was pretty stunning. There was a four-hour version. The first cut was like four hours, I seem to remember.”
If Deakins is correct in his timing, that means the cut he saw would push it to the 195-minute mark, well over 30 minutes longer than the 160-minute version that hit theaters and DVD. As much as Deakins thinks the movie belongs in the collection, Dominik revealed in a 2016 interview that Criterion doesn’t seem all that interested in adding the movie to their esteemed library.
“I don’t think Criterion are interested in it. I don’t think that they feel it’s significant enough for them. There was this really lovely guy, who was a film student, that organized this Jesse James revival, either last year or the year before. He was a film student or something, and Jesse James is his favorite movie. He basically took it upon himself to create a Jesse James revival and he set up all these screens at various Cinematheque type of things. He tried to get Criterion interested, and they weren’t.”
Upon its release, the movie starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck ended up being a box office bomb, making only $15 million worldwide off a $30 million budget. It fared better with critics and the industry, securing two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Affleck) and Best Cinematography. But cinephiles have kept the movie alive and praised its visuals, performances and poetic approach to the Western genre. Regardless of whether or not Criterion would be willing to release it as a new addition to their library, I still think it would be interesting to see the extended cut as part of a limited theatrical release or 4K Blu-ray. The odds of that happening seem slim, but in an era when three-hour movies are breaking the bank, it might not be such a bad idea.