The forbidden movie in question is Don’s Plum, a 1996 American film you probably never heard of, even though the ensemble cast includes Spider-Man Tobey Maguire—and a 20 year-old Leonardo DiCaprio just before his breakout role in the 1997 mega-blockbuster, Titanic. Pardon the frenzied clickbait headline, but in this case, it’s appropriate. Legal haggling between Don Plum’s two main stars and the guys who made the film delayed its release until 2001. All parties involved finally agreed to a settlement: the movie could never be shown anywhere in North America.
However, one of the producers has recently come up with a workaround, allowing free access to a pristine print (see below).
As for the movie, Don’s Plum is all over the map—at turns willfully camp, disturbingly misogynistic, self-consciously arthouse—an uneven, mid-90s showcase of 20-something ennui where unexpectedly effective scenes erupt suddenly out of nowhere. Much of the mostly improvised film looks like it could’ve been cobbled together from John Cassavetes or Harmony Korine outtakes.
An early scene set in a retro-beatnik lounge shows Toby Maguire struggling to secure a date with a potential female acquaintance. On stage, a black vocalist decked out in Blues Brother chic mimics gravel-voiced Tom Waits, juggling his microphone and lit cigarette while interpretive burlesque dancers jolt and gyrate to a free-jazz combo. Then DiCaprio appears. One of his buddies mentions the Viper Room, the terminally hip, celebrity infested Hollywood hotspot then owned by Johnny Depp. Until the Viper reference, it’s unclear what decade we were in.
The making—and squelched distribution—of Don’s Plum has become more notable than the film itself. I caught up online with Dale Wheatley, one of the producers and writers, and asked about the film’s current status. “It isn’t legally available in the US or Canada in any form whatsoever,” he said, although poor prints of the film, in segments and in whole, have been posted online and removed countless times.
Wheatley said he wants people to see Don’s Plum, and will provide a link and password for free access to his personal print upon request. Email Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more information about the Don’s Plum saga, search for Chris Lee’s excellent Vanity Fair article, “The Making and Epic Unmaking of Don’s Plum.”