As a script writer for hire and UK script consultant I worked with director Justin Chadwick on my first short film and various other projects over the years. He’s a nice bloke, a family man and a talented director.
Tulip Fever has become famous over the last few years for various reasons. It’s delayed and troubled release – its connection with Harvey Weinstein and allegations made by Cara Delevingne. Rumour swirled as the film was delayed and release dates changed. Indeed, the copy I managed to get on DVD appears to be a Polish release.
I’m not a big fan of costume drama and I’m also not a particularly massive fan of writer Tom Stoppard (I love Brazil and Billy Bathgate – both troubled films and productions – is there something that Stoppard is doing?) I hate Shakespeare in Love – the film he appears to be living off (I know, where’s my Oscar right?). So I approached Tulip Fever with trepidation.
Of course, Weinstein (amongst his other activities) was an expert at this sort of prestige Oscar bait. The English Patient this isn’t. One wonders if Harvey’s golden touch (for films) was slipping. In fact, one wonders if this picture had actually been any good, and won Oscars, would the ‘Me Too’ movement have even got started? One hopes it still would and it’s all speculation of course, but this film was completed and released before Harvey’s downfall and it’s an absolute fucking mess. Harvey was slipping, his grip loosened, his power on the decline…
Its wrong headed for all kinds of reasons, mostly, to do with the actual plot (how would anyone green light this story as a film? I’m sure it would work as a book, but it’s just soap opera ridiculousness on the big screen).
Justin directs the film, from scene to scene very well. There’s some lush photography, some nice bits of acting (look out for some delicious casting in smaller roles – Jonny Vegas even turns up for a few scenes and is fantastic). But the film in no way adds up to the sum of its parts, and I can’t see this as Justin’s fault – the source material and subsequent script it came from are just not up to the weight that’s being put on them.
Harvey should have known this, but his other disgusting activities may have been taking up more of his time that usual, or maybe, as I feel, he felt that he could fix this – that his touch was gold (it wasn’t). It’s arrogance. And it appears clear that he had plenty of that.
Back in the 90s, when Miramax first set up in the UK I received a commission from them to write a screenplay. I was only very young, and they were encouraging and nice to me and paid me a huge sum of money at the time. The script didn’t get made, but they helped me through two drafts and paid in a timely fashion. There was no hint at the time that Harvey was some sort of predator.
Working in TV soaps for years I heard stories from women about particular producers or executives that would give a girl a leg up in exchange for a leg over. It was an open secret in many places. It seemed accepted, but it wasn’t acceptable.
It Tulip Fever being the disaster that it is, helped expose Harvey, then its place in film history is well deserved.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org or hire him on Peopleperhour