‘World War Z’ and Other Productions in Peril
Before the trailer for World War Z could creep its way onto the internet, talk of the film’s troubled production had long before overshadowed it. With the reports of rewrites and reshoots getting more attention than the actual story, the pressure is on for the film to deliver and avoid a doomed debut.
I’ve always had an odd fascination with troubled films. If the premise is intriguing, or if the film has actors I care about, then I’m happy to root for their little movie that could, dysfunctional as it may be. Here are a few more films that managed to limp their way into theaters with varying degrees of success:
The Fountain (2006)
This film was originally in pre-production in early 2002 with Brad Pitt cast in the lead role opposite Cate Blanchett. You remember that scraggly beard phase Pitt was going through back then? That was for this. After he and writer/director Darren Aronofsky failed to see eye to eye on the creative direction of the film, Pitt left the project, effectively halting the $75 million production. Aronofsky took a hiatus, rewrote the script from scratch, and later cast Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in the lead roles in the newly envisioned story at less than half the original budget. Critics were split on the film, some calling it pretentious and flawed, others calling it inspired and mesmerizing.
The Invasion (2007)
A remake of a 1956 sci-fi thriller, The Invasion had the potential to be a chilling update of its campy predecessor. However, the studio felt Oliver Hirscbiegel’s film fell short…way short. Not only did they order a rewrite by the Wachowskis, but they fired Hirscbiegel and, 13 months later, brought in James McTeigue to direct the extensive reshoots that would cost the studio an additional $10 million. This extra effort seemed to do little for the film as it opened to dismal reviews, many calling it sterile and soulless.
The Devil’s Own (1997)
Yet another troubled production involving Brad Pitt (what’s with that guy?) What began as a prestigious, Oscar-caliber project quickly deteriorated into what Pitt called “a disaster.” After creative differences, ego issues, and numerous rewrites which only seemed to get worse with each draft, the project even began to draw comparisons to Waterworld, the Titanic of all movie productions. While Harrison Ford considered the film to be one of his best, Pitt called it “the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking – if you can even call it that—that I’ve ever seen.” The once mid-level budget skyrocketed to $100 million, which the film failed to recoup at the box office. Critics called the film, which happened to be director Alan J. Pakula’s last, a mediocre and cobbled-together mess.
Men in Black 3 (2012)
Production for this sci-fi comedy began shooting with only a first act written. Multiple writers were hired to either rewrite or write from scratch different segments of the film. Production was halted for months until the final draft could be completed. Despite this typical red flag, MIB 3 performed relatively well at the box office and received positive, if not somewhat lukewarm reviews. Although, the overall feeling from critics was not that the film was particularly bad, merely unnecessary.
Alien 3 (1992)
An oldie but a goodie…kind of. It is no secret that David Fincher’s first feature film is one he’d like to forget. After his harrowing experience, I doubt anyone would blame him. However, before Fincher even signed on, the production was already in trouble. Two directors (Renny Harlin and Vincent Ward) had already signed on before either walking away (Harlin) or being fired (Ward). By the time the project landed in Fincher’s lap, the production was already damaged goods, and it only got worse. Constant studio interference, countless script rewrites that took the story in dozens of different directions, and creative differences between Fincher, producers, writers, costume designers, and probably the kid who got the coffee, left the production to die a slow, painful death. Fincher disowned the film, walking away before editing even began and later refused to be a part of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD release. I’ll tell you what, though. It’s still more fun than Prometheus.
Seeing how most of these films fared at the box office, it does not paint an optimistic picture for World War Z. To be fair, there are a few films not on this list that struggled in the beginning and managed to succeed. Casablanca went through teams of writers and began shooting with an unfinished script and Gone with the Wind had multiple directors. Those films seemed to do okay. Then again, Brad Pitt wasn’t in them.
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