Oscar-nominated director Robert Altman, bounced from the editing room of his latest movie, the John Grisham thriller The Gingerbread Man, may strike back at the Hollywood suits who done him in and take his name off the film, according to a newspaper report Saturday.

Should the 72-year-old Altman go the Alan Smithee route (the pseudonym attached to movies when directors disassociate themselves), he'd become the highest-profile name to do so since David Lynch backed off Dune in 1984.

Altman's been ticked off at Polygram Pictures since the studio turned down his version of the thriller, starring Kenneth Branagh, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall and Daryl Hannah. Polygram thought Altman's finished product was too long (at 109 minutes), lacked tension and suffered from an inappropriate music score, the Los Angeles Times reports. Another editor was brought in to recut the movie, scheduled to open October 3.

According to Polygram, Altman agreed to the re-edit with a "handshake agreement," the newspaper reports. But Altman confidantes say that the director is anything but accepting of the move. As record-company executive Janet Rich tells the Times: "He said this is the worst thing that has happened to him."

Polygram apparently decided it had had enough of Altman's Gingerbread Man cooking after three test screenings in Southern California. The first showing was termed "fantastic," the second, deigned "positive," the third, not-so-good, according to the New York Post. Altman reportedly thinks the audience for the final screening wasn't the right crowd: Too young, too mallrat-ish.

Last Tuesday, Altman screened his cut of the movie for about 100 Industry types in New York. Actor/director Lee Grant (Shampoo) told Daily Variety that Altman's version was "brilliant."

Altman's been stirring the pot for 40 years, through 34 films--including M.A.S.H., Nashville, The Player and Short Cuts, all of which earned the director Academy Award nominations. He's an artist who is as cantankerous as he is acclaimed. He's had dust-ups with the studios behind his last three movies: Kansas City, Ready to Wear and Short Cuts.

Gingerbread Man, featuring the screenwriting debut of best-seller machine John Grisham, is a bigger- ($25 million) budget, more mainstream effort than Altman's typical art-house-friendly film.

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