Egoyan's 'Where the Truth Lies' could get NC-17

LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- Call it a case of ratings interruptus.

Independent movie distributor ThinkFilm said Friday that it plans to appeal the commercially problematic NC-17 rating awarded to Canadian director Atom Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies."

The only problem is that the Motion Picture Assn. of America's Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) says it hasn't officially published the movie's rating yet, and no appeal date has been set.

Based on a murder mystery by Rupert Holmes, "Truth" concerns an investigation into an unsolved murder that marred the career of a '50s stand-up comedy team (Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth). The film includes a menage a trois sex scene involving Bacon, Firth and actress Rachel Blanchard that many observers expect will result in an NC-17, which would make the movie off limits for viewers younger than 18.

In addition to restricting the audience, the NC-17 tag also reduces a studio's ability to market the movie, with some newspapers refusing to publish ads, and some theater owners refusing to screen such movies.

According to sources familiar with discussions between CARA and the director, Egoyan has trimmed several scenes to the point where they would earn the less-restrictive R rating but that the menage a trois scene remains in NC-17 rating territory according to CARA. "Our understanding is that you must first accept the rating, which we did Thursday, and then you can request an appeal," one source said.

When journalists queried Egoyan about the movie's possible ratings difficulties at a media luncheon at the Cannes Film Festival, the director said: "I guess I'm naive. I really had no idea it would be a problem. I just heard the deciding factor could be thrusting. Apparently, anything over three thrusts and you're in trouble. Well, nobody told me. I didn't even do covering shots, so there's nothing I can cut away to. This is what you get."

ThinkFilm chairman Robert Lantos, who also is the film's producer, acknowledged the challenge in reshaping the scene in question, saying: "This scene is done using a single sustained mastershot in order to allow the actors the most conducive environment for intimacy and intensity and in order to best communicate what happens in the film's pivotal scene. It cannot be cut without compromising the central scene of the narrative and thus rendering the mystery of the film incomprehensible. It remains more than a bit absurd to me that this scene would garner an R if shot exactly the same but from just the torso up but becomes an NC-17 because the mastershot reveals full bodies."

The film is to be released October 14 in Los Angeles and New York, with a national expansion October 21.