Richard Kelly burst onto the scene in 2001 with his breakout debut feature Donnie Darko, a wholly unique and incredibly inventive thriller that was equal parts existential and psychological and received rave reviews from critics. The filmmaker was only 25 years old when the movie was released, and it looked as though Hollywood had discovered the next big thing.
Unfortunately, however, Kelly stumbled spectacularly with his next effort, and his career hasn’t recovered since. Southland Tales was an ambitiously expansive genre mashup that told an interweaving narrative set in a dystopian Los Angeles involving Dwayne Johnson’s movie star, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s pornographic actress and Seann William Scott’s police officer and identical twin, along with Justin Timberlake’s army veteran.
Riding high off the success of Donnie Darko, Kelly fell victim to his own overindulgence, with Southland Tales widely panned by critics, many of whom found it to be pretentious to the point of obnoxiousness. The movie made less than $375,000 at the box office on a budget of $17 million, although it did go on to find something of a second life as a misunderstood cult favorite over the last decade or so.
Supporters of Southland Tales will be thrilled to hear that Kelly is now in the process of revisiting his second directorial effort, but those who didn’t care for it the first time around are hardly going to be chomping at the bit to see the six-hour version he’s currently putting together.
“There’s been a significant amount of work done on revisiting Southland Tales. I’m actually putting together a polish on what I’m putting together, which is a polish on it, which is using the graphic novel prequels that were published. You’ll see in the existing version of Southland Tales is Chapters 4-6, so there’s basically a prequel companion film that could, if it’s made, theoretically continue onward into an expanded version of the existing film with new footage.”
“The most ideal version it would basically be a six-hour film, split in two, and within each film there’s three chapters. So it’s like a six-chapter story, but it would be presented in two epic movies, like a big double feature, that in an ideal world could exist on a streaming platform of something that is more amenable to these sort of long-form stories.”
After suffering such a crushing disappointment, Kelly moved onto thriller The Box in 2009, which was another sizeable flop. He hasn’t directed a movie since then, but perhaps the six-hour version of Southland Tales can be his own Justice League Snyder Cut, albeit with a much smaller niche audience in mind.