Going All The Way: The Director’s Edit – 1997 classic bromance gets a new 4K re-edit
Mark Pellington’s wonderful 1997 Sundance Film Festival hit Going All The Way was his debut feature, and now a quarter century later it’s being re-released in a new, never-before-seen 4K re-edit version titled, Going All The Way: The Director’s Edit. It’s a timeless story of freedom and repression, friendship and family, sex and love, and the psychological and spiritual struggle to be true to one’s self even if it means going against society’s expectations.
Based on Dan Wakefield’s best-selling novel, Pellington constructed an elegant and morally complex tale about two young high school alumni and Korean war veterans returning to their sheltered Indianapolis community, only to find they no longer fit in. This new cut is longer (127 min) than the original (112 min), a bit more melancholy, and much more faithful to Wakefield’s novel. In addition to the added footage, there’s even new music. Pellington also added narration lifted directly from the novel, as well as a new score and new opening credits.
As classmates, shy, artistic Sonny (Jeremy Davies) and charming, popular Gunner (Ben Affleck in his first lead role) had nothing to do with one another. Now, in the stifling climate of Eisenhower America, where prejudice and paranoia rule the day, the two young men find in each other the strength to change their lives and futures.
Each must choose between the suffocating, but familiar comforts offered to them by their mothers (Jill Clayburgh, Lesley Ann Warren-Nina) and their old flames and friends (Amy Locane, Nick Offerman), or the exciting, but uncertain futures represented by a pair of enthralling new romantic prospects (Rachel Weisz, Rose McGowan). Theirs is an emotionally fraught journey—especially for Sonny, who struggles with self-doubt and thoughts of suicide—but one leavened by moments of humour, uplift, and self-discovery. Narration is by the film editor, Leo Trombetta.
The newly re-edited and restored version completely upends the original cut, hews closer to the source novel, and cements the film as one of the most aesthetically fresh and thematically fascinating films of the 90s, as well as a testament to the ever-evolving possibilities of cinematic rediscovery.
GOING ALL THE WAY marked Pellington’s introduction to feature filmmaking in 1997. He followed this up with 1999’s disturbingly prescient domestic terrorism thriller ARLINGTON ROAD and 2002’s sleeper horror hit THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. He has since directed four more features: HENRY POOLE IS HERE, I MELT WITH YOU, THE LAST WORD, and NOSTALGIA, as well as the 3-D concert film, U2 3D. He has also directed music videos for such artists as U2, Public Enemy, Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, and more. Now’s your chance to see a ’90s adaptation of a ’70s novel that depicts the ’50s, that’s been recut in the 2020s!
Going All The Way: The Director’s Edit is playing in select theatres. Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories. A deluxe Blu-ray/DVD edition is also planned for early 2023.
About the Production and Restoration “Rarely in life do you get a chance at a do-over,” says filmmaker Mark Pellington. But that was exactly what he was given when the opportunity arose to return to his debut film of twenty-five years earlier. In 1994, after establishing himself as one of the most exciting young directors in the field of music videos, documentary, and commercials, the then-thirty-two-year-old Pellington was ready to make his first feature-length movie.
He very quickly seized upon the story he wanted to tell: “I first read Dan Wakefield’s novel Going All the Way when I was a teenager,” says Pellington, “and found it completely inspiring. It’s really the seminal piece of literature that influenced me—my Catcher in the Rye or A Separate Peace.” Published in 1970, Going All the Way, was a main selection of The Literary Guild, nominated for the National Book Award, appeared on Time magazine’s best-seller list, and sold more than one million copies. Translated into six languages and published in eight countries abroad, its story and characters captured the imagination of an era and broke new ground in contemporary literature.
The questions raised in the book—which Pellington sums up as “about becoming a new person and beginning your new life after the life you’ve known as a child”—and the roads taken by the book’s two main characters, the awkward and introverted Sonny Burns and the gregarious and confident Gunner Casselman, held special resonance for him. “I found myself in both characters,” he explains. As Wakefield readily admits, “When Mark first approached me to do the movie and told me of his affinity for the two characters, I felt that we had a meeting of the minds since there’s a bit of Sonny and a bit of Gunner in me, too.”
Pellington and his producing partner, Tom Gorai, optioned the rights and set up development with producer Sigurjon Sighvatsson, president of Lakeshore Entertainment. Said Sighvatsson, “The journey within the film is one everyone can identify with, and Mark’s love of the material, coupled with the visual excitement typical of his work, inspired my involvement.” The job of adapting book to screenplay was given to Wakefield himself. The writing took more than one year to complete, with the final shooting script clocking in at a whopping 137 pages. It proved a daunting task for the filmmakers to pare the story down to a reasonable runtime while staying true to the spirit of the book.
Pellington and Gorai figured out one way to keep the integrity of the original story intact was to shoot the 1954 period piece in the authentic Indianapolis locations detailed in the book. Adds Pellington, “I also thought the idea of shooting this film where the novel was set would have some spiritual resonance.” Production began in Indianapolis in August of 1996. Pellington and his team knew the most essential element in bringing the story to screen was the casting, particularly of the two main characters.
More than fifty actors auditioned for the part of Sonny Burns, but it was Jeremy Davies who impressed the filmmakers with his uncanny take on the character. “I gave Jeremy a copy of the book before I even gave him the screenplay,” remembers Pellington, “and he wrote me a nine-page letter that blew me away with the most incredible, fragmented, non-linear understanding of Sonny.” Of his character, Davies offers, “Sonny hasn’t thought much about where he’s from and hasn’t questioned where he’s going until he meets up with Gunner. He’s not a rebel. He’s not a cool guy. He’s really just kind of undefined.”
With their Sonny in place, the filmmakers began the search for Gunner. The role required an actor whose physicality and personality would stand in stark contrast to Davies, but who could still meet him on an equal intellectual and emotional level. They found just such an actor in Ben Affleck. “Ben came in, smoked the reading, and the casting director, Ellen Chenoweth, and I looked at each other and said, ‘Oh my God, he’s the real Gunner!’” recalls Pellington. “Gunner is a gregarious, fun-loving, adventuresome guy who wants to try everything. He dives off head first and collides with life,” said Affleck. “But he’s at a point where he’s examining his life and his future. There’s a nice symbiotic relationship between him and Sonny—each is so different and yet each wishes he was more like the other.”
Pellington was thrilled to land Jill Clayburgh to portray the repressed, bible-thumping Alma Burns and Lesley Ann Warren to play the overtly sexy and spirited Nina Casselman. “Jill and Lesley’s involvement, as well as that of all of the actors, speaks volumes about the quality of the material,” says the director.
Rounding out the cast were three rising young actresses portraying the women in Sonny and Gunner’s love lives: Amy Locane stars as Buddy Porter, Sonny’s long-suffering, loyal sweetheart who dreams of nothing more than getting married and raising a family in Indianapolis; Rachel Weisz plays Marty Pilcher, a New York-bound art lover whose sophisticated tastes intoxicate Gunner; and Rose McGowan portrays Gail Thayer, a seductive, fun loving girl with whom Sonny becomes instantly infatuated. Actor Nick Offerman, making his big screen debut, also appears in a memorable role as one of Gunner’s old high school jock buddies, who doesn’t understand why his friend is no longer content to float through life drinking beer and playing pick-up ball.
Pellington compares the feeling of looking back on this incredible cast of future stars twenty-five years later to “Discovering a time capsule…they’ve all gone through ups and downs, personally and professionally, so when I watch [the movie] now, I remember what made me love them in the first place.”
With his infectious energy, Pellington rallied the cast and crew to complete the entire film in a remarkable thirty days. However, the short shooting schedule did not mean they skimped on the material. Quite the opposite, in fact: the first assembly cut of the film came in at a little over three hours. The producers had set their sights on getting into that year’s Sundance Film Festival, so Pellington and his editor, Leo Trombetta, cut the movie down to 112 minutes. The film was accepted into Sundance, where it premiered to good reviews. However, the movie was still deemed too long for a theatrical release, so more cuts were made.
The version of GOING ALL THE WAY that was released in theaters in September of ‘97 ran just 98 minutes. Pellington stresses that his relationship with his producers and distributors was a good one, and that ultimately, he approved the version of the film that the public saw. But personally, he wasn’t satisfied with it, nor with the way it was marketed as a broad sex comedy. He’d received pushback on the darker parts of the film, especially the harrowing aftermath of Sonny’s attempted suicide in the second half, which was so essential to the emotional arc of his character.
While still faithful to Wakefield’s book, “GOING ALL THE WAY ended up a much lighter film than anyone had set out to make, so much so that Trombetta would refer to the theatrical cut as “‘Happy Days.’” Critically, the movie received mixed, if still mostly positive reviews, but once it left theatres it quickly fell out of circulation. It rarely played on cable television, has been out of print on home video for years, and has been available to stream on only one platform.
Even though Pellington, his cast, and his crew would all go on to great success, it seemed as though this early labour of love was destined to languish in obscurity…but then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. While quarantining, Pellington discovered the film’s initial three-hour assembly cut on Beta tape. After converting it to a digital file himself, he brought it to Trombetta with the idea of re-cutting it.
“The world was not clamoring for a new version of GOING ALL THE WAY, and we had no intention of releasing it,” explains Pellington. “We were just bored in COVID.” But Trombetta found the idea exciting. He returned a couple of months later with a brand new cut of the film, one that ran about 2 hours and 20 min and was much closer to the version both men originally had in their head. “Leo Trombetta is the secret weapon,” Pellington says. “None of this would have happened without his passion or his artistry. I love that they call [the new version] the ‘Director’s Edit’, because it really did all come down to the edit.”
Around this same time, Pellington was taking meetings about potential television projects with Village Roadshow, who had, in the preceding years, acquired Lakeshore Entertainment’s library after that company folded. He mentioned that they now owned his first feature, a little-known movie that just so happened to contain early performances by some of the biggest stars working today. He piqued their interest even more by informing them he had a brand new cut of the film with close to an hour of scenes never seen by anyone outside of a handful of original production members. Conversations about a potential new restoration and release followed, with the recommendation that Pellington reach out to Oscilloscope Laboratories, the independent production and distribution company founded by Adam Yauch, since they specialized in restorations and directors’ cuts of movies that slipped through the cracks (such as Tom Noonan’s WHAT HAPPENED WAS… and John Cameron Mitchell’s SHORTBUS).
Pellington felt an immediate personal connection to Oscilloscope, one that stretched back to his MTV days, where he remembers hanging around with Yauch and his fellow Beastie Boys as they rose to prominence. With Oscilloscope on board, a deal was reached to have a new cut rescanned for a 4K. Pellington and Trombetta put the finishing touches on their edit, trimming the first 40 minutes while adding 50 new minutes of footage.
As it stands, this definitive edition of GOING ALL THE WAY feels like a completely different film, one that veers away from the broadly comedic, satirical and plot-heavy elements of the previous version and towards a more character-driven, psychologically complex vision. It is a darker movie, but also far more sensitive and, ultimately, uplifting.
Pellington was able to reinsert scenes he’d greatly regretted cutting, including a section of the movie in which Affleck’s character grows a beard and ends up ostracizing himself from his conservative community, leading to a confrontation between Clayburgh and Warren’s characters. He also put back one of the film’s most intimate and moving scenes, in which Clyburgh’s character opens up to her son about how it feels to grow older; as well as a trip to an art museum that helps deepen Buddy’s character. Finally, a sequence set at a quarry, in which Sonny opens up to Gunner about his attempted suicide, provides the film with a sense of catharsis originally missing from the theatrical version.
Together, these additions help to honour the spirit of Wakefield’s novel and script, as well as the exceptional work of the cast—particularly the women, who, per Pellington, “become less ornamental and more integral to the story.” Along with the addition of those scenes, a startling new title sequence was created by Sergio Pinheiro, assembled from the collection of impressionistic footage Pellington shot (SE7EN meets GOING ALL THE WAY, as he describes it).
Composer Pete Adams recorded 50 new minutes of music, which give the film a more “cohesive, dramatic heft”, says Pellington, while the new voiceover provided by Trombetta helps place it in a “more literary context.” The 4K restoration proved just as intensive, if not more so, than the re-editing, a process Pellington described as, at times, “laborious [and] maddening.” Half of the footage used in the new edit existed only on the original negatives, so Pellington worked closely with Los Angeles-based post-production facility FotoKem, as well as editor and videographer Joe D’Augustine, to go through the mounds of film in order to locate everything they needed.
Once they succeeded, some light colour correction was added to give the film “a little more punch,” and the new 4K scan was rendered. The GOING ALL THE WAY that audiences are about to discover is the one Pellington and company always intended to show the world. He feels confident that this new iteration will not only surprise those who may remember the 1997 version, but also speak to younger audiences.
“The issues I see my own family members going through in their early 20s, they’re all the same thing: Who am I? Who do I want to be? Where should I be? My parents want me to do that, but I feel like doing this. All these big questions they’re exploring in their own lives—they’re universal.”
He is just as excited for the cast and crew to finally experience the film they all initially set out to make. “They did the work and nobody ever saw it. Ben and Jeremy especially. I can’t wait for them to see this.” As for himself, Pellington is grateful not only to be able to share his vision with the world again, but for the chance to return to his first and most personal work with all the experience and knowledge he’s gained over the past twenty-five years. “It’s a gift,” says Pellington. “It’s a gift to retell this story in a new way.”
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.