THE NAKED DVD: The Good Shepherd

The Naked DVD is a new, regular column that spotlights DVDs that have been stripped of any or all special features. Most often this is the first issued DVD of a given movie that usually contain the bare bones supplements such as a trailer and nothing else. Hence the term naked. Our goal here at Behind The Scenes TV is to coax the studios and production companies to come up with a spectacular version of the mentioned DVD through our own wish list of special features. Hopefully, our honorable mentions could influence the next version of the said DVD to be released with all the bells and whistles that the movie deserves of the filmmakers’ vision.

The Good Shepherd was one of the most glossed over movies when it came out at the end of Dec 2005. Despite a pedigreed cast (Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Bladwin and William Hurt) and director (Robert DeNiro), it was hampered by its hefty subject matter and it’s close to three hour running time. But is this the subject matter – a chronicle of the rise of the CIA through one man, Edward Wilson (played by Damon) – that makes it really fascinating. Through its origins of the old boys club at Yale, Wilson’s ascent into the intelligence world sets him on a long journey through the decades of cold war espionage. Eventually, the cloak and dagger world of Wilson shatters his family and the loss of his own soul.  

The script by Eric Roth has been around since the early 90s and has garnered reputation as one of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. It came close to being made several times with Francis Ford Coppola, Philip Kaufman and John Frankenheimer. When Robert DeNiro expressed interest to direct, he had Leonardo DiCaprio in mind for the role of Wilson. But DiCaprio had to shoot The Departed for Martin Scorsese and Damon stepped into the role.  Damon had to waive his usual fee to scale the budget down to $90 million so that the movie could be made. 

DeNiro’s interest in the spy world shows through in his direction. The world of a spy is carefully and meticulously observed in regards to its rituals. DeNiro wasn’t interested in making a spy movie with flashy violence and exciting car chases. “I just like it when things happen for a reason. So I want to downplay the violence, depict it in a muted way. In those days, it was a gentleman’s game.” He and Roth were also interested in showing how absolute power corrupted the leaders of the CIA. Early on, DeNiro said in an interview, “they tried to do what they thought was right. And then, as they went on, they became overconfident and started doing things that are not always in our best interest.” In order to achieve authenticity, he hired ex-CIA operative Milt Bearden (who worked for the agency for 30 years) as the film’s technical advisor. 

It comes as no pleasant surprise that Universal’s first DVD release of The Good Shepherd feels like a rushed job. With absolutely no special features except for 16 minutes of deleted scenes and the requisite theatrical trailer, it almost feels that the Universal thought nobody would have the time for the special features after watching a three hour movie. But the world that The Good Shepherd depicts is absorbing as its cast and we think audiences are missing a big part of the behind-the-scenes journey of this story.

So to redress the next edition of The Good Shepherd DVD, The Naked DVD is hoping for the following special features in its wish list:

  • A Robert DeNiro feature commentary. How often does DeNiro ever direct? The last time was his feature debut, A Bronx Tale, and that was way back in 1993. Since the private DeNiro hardly speaks about his process, this commentary would be a goldmine.
  • The director’s cut of the movie – DeNiro has spoken of an over 3 hour version of the movie
  • A feature commentary with Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and the rest of the cast
  • A history of the CIA – we’re hoping a long documentary that shows the birth of the CIA and where it is today. The special features team could pull the documentary from The History Channel, Discovery or somewhere else.
  • A behind-the-scenes look at Robert DeNiro directing and working with his cast and crew
  • A featurette on how Matt Damon prepared for his role. His character is apparently based on James Angleton, a chief in the CIA from back in the day. The producers could pepper this featurette with interviews with the other actors whose characters were also based somewhat on real-life figures.
  • The location scouting for The Good Shepherd – just because it’s just an intriguing part of painting the world of the intelligence community.
  • Interviews with actual CIA case officers and their participation in the Cold War
  • Deleted Scenes – There’s probably more deleted scenes that DeNiro had to excise from his theatrical cut to get his under three hour cut

The Good Shepherd is a film with a rich subject matter that deserves the red carpet treatment that Universal has denied its DVD release.


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