Movies | March 17, 2020 6:31 am

Paul Schrader Reacts Badly to Coronavirus-Related Shutdown of His Latest Film

"The Card Counter" was nearing the end of its shoot when the decision was made

Paul Schrader
Paul Schrader in 2015.
Tonymark26/Creative Commons

As a writer and director, Paul Schrader has explored complex questions of faith, violence and masculinity. He wrote the screenplays for the likes of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and wrote and directed acclaimed works like First Reformed and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Unfortunately for both Schrader and the rest of us, the nuance and complexity that characterizes his best work tends to go out the window when he speaks off the cuff. And that’s precisely what happened after production of his latest film was paused due to coronavirus-related concerns.

At IndieWire, Zack Scharf has the details. Schrader’s followup to First Reformed is a film called The Card Counter, and it boasts a powerhouse cast: Oscar Isaac, Willem Dafoe, Tye Sheridan and Tiffany Haddish. Production on the film was temporarily stopped by its producers due to one of the actors testing positive for COVID-19. To most people, this would seem like a deeply understandable decision to protect the health and safety of the cast and crew. Schrader, however, disagreed.

In a post on Facebook, the filmmaker lambasted “my pussified producers” for shutting down the film’s production.

“I’m old and asthmatic, what better way to die than on the job?” he added. As a man in his 70s with a respiratory condition, Schrader is doubly at risk for COVID-19. A stubborn, prickly figure refusing to heed advice that would keep him safe sure sounds like the protagonist of a Schrader project — but those characters aren’t necessarily known for their wise decisions.

It’s not the first time that Schrader’s comments have landed him in hot water in recent years. In 2017, his comments about Harvey Weinstein sparked controversy as well. It’s a frustrating moment for anyone who’s enjoyed Schrader’s art but lamented his choice of words on certain hot-button topics.

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