LOS ANGELES — When the Brittany Murphy thriller “Something Wicked” wrapped production in July 2009, most members of the cast and crew assumed it wouldn’t be long until the independent film hit theaters. No one had a clue it would take nearly five years for the twisted love story to get released, as it finally is, in limited release, next month.
Just months after shooting ended, Murphy was found dead at 32. Fans were hopeful that the movie — the last the actress worked on — would undergo a quick turnaround, serving as a tribute to the late actress.
But Joe Colleran, the film’s writer and producer, said in an interview this week that he and his team battled a slew of issues in their attempt to get the low-budget film to the big screen.
Shot in Oregon, “Something Wicked” follows a newlywed couple who embark on a honeymoon against the wishes of their parents. When said parents are found dead, a psychiatrist — Murphy — is brought in to help determine whether the bride had a hand in the murders.
According to Colleran, when the picture wrapped after 30 days, “80 percent was in the can,” but there was still some crucial second-unit work left to do. To get the final scenes completed, the crew had to travel back to Oregon and secure the same locations they’d used during filming. And because of a state tax incentive, they didn’t want to complete the rest of the movie elsewhere. It was the end of 2012 before the crew could return to Oregon and bring the film to completion.
Then, when the film was finished, Colleran said he couldn’t find anyone who wanted to release it in theaters. (Most studio executives were interested in a video-on-demand strategy.) So his company, Merchant Films, decided to launch its own theatrical distribution arm, which required making sure a marketing and public relations team was in place.
Colleran also said the death played a role in the delay. “We wouldn’t want this coming out right on the heels of a tragedy,” he said, though plenty of filmmakers and distributors have in fact found sensitive ways to release movies after a star’s death, including Fox Searchlight with James Gandolfini’s “Enough Said,” which came out just a few months after “The Sopranos” star suffered a fatal heart attack. In December, executives at Pantelion Films also decided to move ahead with opening one of Paul Walker’s final films, “Hours,” only weeks after the actor died in a car crash.
Colleran did call the editing process “very emotional. We wanted to make her fans proud of her last performance — but we also wanted to make her mom and dad proud of it.”
On April 4, “Something Wicked” will finally premiere at the Regal Cinemas in Eugene, Ore. Colleran said he chose the location in the hopes that those who live in the area will be eager to see a film shot in their hometown. (The movie will expand to six locations in the Northwest the following weekend.)
Despite the delay, Colleran — who grew up in the same New Jersey county as Murphy — is hopeful fans will turn out to see one of her strongest performances.
“Brittany pulled off some of the most chilling scenes in the movie,” Colleran said. “You can kind of see why she was a celebrity.”