Film News

Suicide comedy ad campaign painful for groups

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Suicide prevention groups are dead set against the proposed ad campaign for the comedy “Wristcutters: A Love Story,” which plans to bill itself with posters showing people killing themselves.

The images will depict people jumping off a bridge, electrocuting and hanging themselves. The acclaimed film follows a group of people that have committed suicide (including stars Patrick Fugit and Shannyn Sossamon) as they take a road trip through purgatory.

“You don’t see people making fun of other causes of death, but you see it with suicide and mental illness,” Robert Gebbia, executive director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), wrote in a letter to the film’s backers.

But Courtney Solomon, co-owner of After Dark Films, said the posters will be displayed as traffic-style stop or yield signs with a bar and circle over the illustrations, along with hearts to reference the film’s romantic story line. He said the campaign may change before its mid-July rollout.

“The movie takes place in purgatory, and its message is that love is better than suicide,” Solomon said, adding that the film may even help prevent suicide.

“Our job is to get people into the theater in a way that’s accessible to them. There are many different ways to skin a cat. God forbid someone was considering committing suicide. This film may change their opinion.”

It’s just the latest controversy for After Dark, which last week removed billboards and taxi signage for the upcoming film “Captivity,” after complaints over depictions of star Elisha Cuthbert being tortured and killed.

After reading earlier this month about the “Wristcutters” signage, the R-rated film’s target audience of 17- to 30-year-olds, and Solomon’s comment that he hopes the signs “don’t cause too many accidents,” the AFSP wrote a separate letter to Solomon, along with 14 other groups, contending that the marketing campaign was overkill.

Jerry Reed, executive director of Suicide Prevention Action Network USA, said Solomon has not yet responded.

Solomon said he has been busy reshooting more violent scenes for “Captivity” to appeal to the audience that turned “Saw” and “Hostel” into hits. He cited this additional workload as one factor in moving the “Wristcutters” campaign from April to mid-July before its August 31 release in New York, Los Angeles and possibly other major markets.

He intends to offer screenings or DVDs of the film to concerned organizations in the next few weeks, and then discuss the campaign with them and ask for their input.

Both Reed and Gebbia said they were not objecting to the film but to the proposed campaign. “We don’t want to censor work,” said an AFSP spokesperson.

While the “Wristcutters” campaign has come under fire, Goran Dukic’s dark comedy-romance was one of three films nominated for a 2006 Humanitas Sundance feature screenwriting award. Dukic received a plaque noting his “extraordinary contribution (to) entertainment that also enriches, probes the meaning of life and motivates love within the human family.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter