American History X (lost director's cut version of crime drama film; 1998)

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American history x poster.jpg

Advertisement poster for the film.

Status: Lost

American History X is a 1998 drama film directed by Tony Kaye. It stars Edward Norton as a Nazi skinhead that makes a remarkable transformation after 3 years in prison. It received critical acclaim for its realistic portrayal of its subject matter, and it earned Norton an Academy Award nomination for Leading Actor. Despite American History X being a success, a lot of drama went during the post-production. In the end, New Line Cinema removed director Tony Kaye from the editing process and released the movie and it was 40 minutes longer than what Tony Kaye had envisioned. The entire 96 minute cut of the movie has yet to surface.

Plot[edit | edit source]

American History X stars Edward Norton as Derek who is influenced by skinheads upon the death of his father when he is killed during a drive-by shooting. After a basketball game with a rival gang, two members of that gang attempt to steal Derek's truck. Derek kills all three gang members and is sentenced to three years in jail. Derek's younger brother Daniel (Edward Furlong) starts to mimick his brother's actions and soon finds himself in trouble at school where he writes a paper in support of Hitler. While in jail, Derek sees the flaws in the skinheads and leaves the group. In the end, Daniel is shot in a restroom by a crip despite disaffiliating with the skinheads.[1]

Post Production Drama[edit | edit source]

Filming for American History X wrapped up in early 1998 and with a 96-minute movie, there were between the cast, director and the studio. Director Tony Kaye and film distributor New Line Cinema had two different visions for how the film should play out. So much conflict arose during post-production that Tony Kaye would only communicate with New Lines Cinema through paid ads in the newspaper. With Tony Kaye being next to impossible to work with, New Line Cinema took over the editing process. The final cut of the film that was released is 40 minutes longer than Tony Kaye's cut of the film.[2]

In 2002, Tony Kaye wrote a piece with The Guardian about the production nightmare of American History X stating:

My problem all through American History X was that I could never tell anyone what I wanted to do with the film. Sometimes I didn’t even know myself. More often, I was so intimidated by the process that I went into meltdown if I wasn’t left alone to work things out. Of course, if you actually listened to what Norton was saying, you could hear that none of it made sense in film-making terms: that’s not his forte, as you’ll know if you saw the movie that he directed, Keeping the Faith. “Pretty f*cking awful” hardly covers that one.[3]

Availability[edit | edit source]

The surviving film was actually stolen from the director's hands by both New Line Cinema (the film's distributor) and Edward Norton (who is a notoriously difficult actor to deal with). Several squabbles over what scenes should stay and what order they should be in resulted in an extremely lengthy post-production process. After New Line Cinema rejected Kaye's first and second cuts, Norton eventually ended up helming the editing process in early-1998, allegedly tailoring his cut in order to specifically give himself more screentime, something Kaye believes "ruined" the film. There is little information available towards what exactly was different.

It is widely believed that Norton destroyed many of the master copies of the deleted scenes. Only a handful of scenes were featured on the movie's DVD or leaked onto the internet. Kaye did eventually release a documentary about the struggles the film's production had, but even that movie has been screened a limited amount of times. To this day, it is unknown exactly how many more scenes have yet to be released if any. No material at all from the earlier cut was ever made publicly available until a workprint of Kaye's second cut, dating around late-1997, was leaked online in the form of a rip of a high-generation VHS tape. Lost Media Wiki founder dycaite had initially uploaded a copy of the workprint that he had acquired from anonymous sources, however, it was later removed from Mega due to a copyright claim. An alternative rip of the bootleg has surfaced on private torrent trackers, such as MySpleen.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

4 and a half minutes of footage from the found workprint.

References[edit | edit source]