When documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney set out to make a film about Lance Armstrong, he originally intended it to be a tale of his 2009 comeback. But after the cyclist's doping revelations and subsequent confessions, a very different documentary, The Armstrong Lie (out today on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download), took shape. Gibney told Extra Mustard about the deleted scene above, and other challenges in switching the film's focus.E.M.: You attempted to make one movie and came away with something completely different. How much of what you had already filmed had to be scrapped?
A.G.: The big question was whether we should keep any of it. That was one thought – just to junk it all—though we realized that we had something special, and exclusive. The final film ends up being the anatomy of a lie, and you can’t really see that unless you see what happened in 2009. So we ended up keeping a lot of 2009 both because it shows the anatomy of a lie, but also what makes that lie possible—how it hides in plain sight—and one of those things is how people root for charismatic athletes. Changing the focus of the film was difficult, and frustrating at times, but at the end of the day I think the film that came out of it was more powerful than the original one.
Why did this deleted scene (above) end up being cut?
That scene was very important in the comeback story—It was a bumpy road back, so in the context of that story, it was an important scene. But in the context of understanding the anatomy of a lie, it wasn't as critical. It was interesting, but sometimes you have to take your stuff and put it on the cutting room floor because it doesn’t fit the new story.
Any other scenes you wish you could have included, but that didn’t fit the new angle?
There was a great scene that had to do with the culture of cycling. I think it was Stage 14 of the Tour de France, and Lance’s team was trying to ride out front, yet subtly slow down the whole peloton so that George Hincapie, who had done Lance a favor in Stage 3, could win that stage. It was a flat stage and he had broken out front. It didn’t end up happening, and Hincapie was pissed off. There’s a wonderful scene where Johan [Bruyneel] is talking to [Alberto] Contador and trying to explain it to him why they’re going to put George in the yellow jersey, but Contador is furious. He’s like, “F— no! What are you talking about?” You can see Johan trying to play this delicate dance between his two alpha males. It was a fun and good scene, so I miss it, but it didn’t fit this film.