LA Times: “Hal Ashby’s long-lost caper movie”

From the LA Times:

Routinely termed a neglected figure of the 1970s New Hollywood, Hal Ashby has been undergoing a modest posthumous renaissance of late: a smattering of retrospective screenings, an overdue biography, a vocal celebrity fan club whose ranks include Wes Anderson, Judd Apatow and Cameron Crowe.

Only his most partisan admirers would deny that the director suffered a drop-off in inspiration after his last major film, 1979’s “Being There.” Still, as part of the ongoing Ashby revival, some of his later works, until now dismissed as footnotes at best and outright follies at worst, are being given a closer look. One, the odd-couple caper “Lookin’ to Get Out,” surfaces this week on DVD in a director’s cut about 15 minutes longer than the version released to hostile reviews and minimal box office in 1982…

The troubled circumstances of the movie’s production and release are well recounted in Nick Dawson’s meticulous new biography “Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel.” The director was juggling the postproduction of another doomed comedy, “Second-Hand Hearts” (1981), and the development of “Tootsie” (a gig he eventually lost to Sydney Pollack because “Lookin’ to Get Out” fell far behind schedule).

Unhappy with the version of the film he turned in, Paramount executives demanded a reedit, and Ashby, fed up and beaten down, left it to his editor, Bob Jones, who worked with Voight to produce a shorter cut.

It was in the course of researching his book that Dawson realized that Ashby’s preferred edit, a further fine-tuning of the cut he submitted to the studio, still existed. The director’s cut of “Lookin’ to Get Out” is no lost masterpiece, but you can easily see how a truncated version would have stifled its loose-limbed energy.

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