‘Suddenly’ Director Clarifies Claims About Scrapped Jake Gyllenhaal Indie: ‘In France, the Director Is the One in Charge’

“Suddenly” director Thomas Bidegain is clarifying his viral statements about his scrapped film set to star Jake Gyllenhaal and Vanessa Kirby.

In a report published by France’s Technikart magazine (as translated by Film Stories UK and blog World of Reel), Bidegain claimed Gyllenhaal exhibited erratic behavior during pre-production on the survival film. Bidegain was slated to direct from a script he cowrote with Valentine Monteil, as adapted from Isabelle Autissier’s novel “Soudain Seuls.”

Gyllenhaal was a producer on the $26 million indie film set to begin production in Iceland in fall 2021. “Suddenly” starred Gyllenhaal and Kirby as a couple trapped on an island in the South Atlantic. The set was being constructed on a whaling facility, with locations already chosen in Iceland, at the time when the allegations took place. Among Bidegain’s claims included Gyllenhaal stripping down to swim in the freezing ocean and reading the script in a “Pepe Le Pew” accent with Kirby.

Bidegain told Technikart that Gyllenhaal demanded the script be rewritten to make his character a military veteran and include a sequence where he “slaps a fish.” Per Bidegain, Gyllenhaal made additional demands that his rental car should be “neither red nor white” in color and had production set builders sleep in their cars to limit the spread of COVID.

Kirby tried to buy the script from Bidegain so she could try to make the film with Gyllenhaal but without Bidegain or producer Alain Attal’s involvement. Bidegain told Attal at the time that he reached out to Gyllenhaal saying there was “no point in persisting, our visions diverge too much.”

Now, Bidegain is telling Variety that the project fell apart due to differences between French and American filmmaking.

“It’s a very strange experience when you work with an actor-producer who doesn’t have the same vision [as] the director,” Bidegain said. “In France, the director is the one in charge of the telling the story, and he’s in charge of the script, the set design, etc.”

“Suddenly” was his first experience working with an actor-producer like Gyllenhaal and also would have been his first English-language feature.

He added, “We have very different ways to make films in France and in the U.S.”

Bidegain further told Variety that he had “assumed” that Gyllenhaal and Kirby “were on the same page” as Bidegain and producer Attal when it came to the script due to changes made via Zoom prior to meeting in Iceland.

“I assumed that we would just put the finishing touches on it,” Bidegain said. “But when we started reading the script in the same room, we realized that we didn’t have at all the same vision of what the film was meant to be. They wanted more and more changes. It’s normal when there are changes to the script before shooting, but this was different. We each had our own idea of what the message of the film was. I tried to smooth things over once, twice — and then I just realized it wasn’t going to work out, so it had to stop.”

Bidegain left Gyllenhaal and Kirby in Iceland despite ordering sets to be built without the film going into production. Bidegain later rewrote the script in his native French and cast Gilles Lellouche and Melanie Laurent in lieu of Gyllenhaal and Kirby. The film was retitled “Suddenly Alone” and was released in December 2023.

IndieWire obtained a statement from production company Studio Canal that reads: “Creative differences are very normal, if unfortunate, regularities in film development. In this case, there were concerns which simply could not be overcome despite great efforts on both sides. We greatly value all our relationships at Studio Canal and are happy that Thomas Bidegain was able to fulfill his vision on the French language version of ‘Suddenly.’ We remain deeply committed to our working partnerships with both Thomas Bidegain and Jake Gyllenhaal, with whom we have always enjoyed a very strong creative relationship.”

Following the preproduction process for “Suddenly,” Kirby went on to star in Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon.”

Gyllenhaal leads upcoming film “Road House,” which will open the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival, despite director Doug Liman actively “protesting” the streaming-only release of the Amazon MGM movie. Gyllenhaal plays a former UFC fighter in the movie, and even filmed a scene at UFC 285. Gyllenhaal has hinted at also making his own directorial debut after allegedly ghost-directing sequences of Michael Bay’s “Ambulance.” The actor is adapting Gary Shteyngart’s novel “Lake Success” as a limited series through his production company Nine Stories.

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