Why Did Tony Kaye Leave American History X?

American History X is a 1998 movie that has gone down in history as one of the most controversial films ever made. The movie starred Edward Norton and was directed by Tony Kaye.

However, despite being a critical and commercial success, Tony Kaye left the project before it was completed. This left many fans wondering why he left and what happened behind the scenes. In this article, we will take a closer look at why Tony Kaye left American History X.

The Script

One of the main reasons that Tony Kaye left American History X was because of issues with the script. Before production began, Kaye had written his own version of the script which he felt was more in line with his vision for the film. However, New Line Cinema, the studio behind the movie, rejected Kaye’s script and brought in David McKenna to write a new version.

Kaye was unhappy with McKenna’s script and felt that it didn’t accurately represent his vision for the film. He tried to make changes to the script but was met with resistance from both New Line Cinema and Edward Norton who had significant creative control over the project.

Creative Differences

Another reason that Tony Kaye left American History X was due to creative differences with Edward Norton. Norton had significant control over the project and clashed with Kaye over various aspects of production such as casting choices and cinematography.

Kaye wanted to cast Elliot Gould in a key role but Norton vetoed this decision despite Gould being interested in playing the part. Additionally, Norton wanted to shoot some scenes in black and white which conflicted with Kaye’s vision for the film.

Production Issues

Finally, there were several production issues that led to Tony Kaye leaving American History X. One significant issue was a disagreement over final cut privileges. New Line Cinema wanted final say over how the movie was edited and Kaye was unwilling to give up that control.

Additionally, Kaye’s unconventional directing style caused tension on set. He would often shoot multiple takes of the same scene, sometimes even reaching triple digits, which caused frustration among the cast and crew.


In conclusion, Tony Kaye left American History X due to a combination of issues with the script, creative differences with Edward Norton, and production issues. Despite leaving the project before it was completed, Kaye’s vision for the film can still be seen in many aspects of the final product. American History X remains a controversial but important movie that explores themes of racism and redemption.