Did you ever hear a famous actor on a talk show say something along the lines of "I'm really excited about my new movie, people are going to LOVE it!" ... and just know you're being lied to?
The sad reality is that too many studio films are cynical, lazy attempts to separate you from your money. The actors and directors are well aware of their role in this cinematic scam, but they are contractually obligated to sell the world a basketful of filthy, filthy lies.
However—on rare enchanted occasions, movie folk will publicly acknowledge the overall craptitude of their crappy product. When these precious moments of clarity come to pass, they should not only be taken note of, they should be celebrated.
Here we present, in chronological order, 17 magical moments when working filmmakers publicly conceded the horribleness of their terrible dreadful films.
(Note: There are any number of regretful, low-budget affairs that actors did when they young and penniless, so we're confining this list to big budget Hollywood genre flicks.)
Hollywood was a weird place back in the early 1980s. Someone gave $40 million to surrealist director David Lynch and asked him to transform Frank Herbert's Dune into a cinematic epic a la Star Wars. Lynch bumped heads with producers and financiers, and the result was a muddled, sandy, wormy mess.
This original Dune adaptation is not without merits, but it remains a sore point for Lynch, who went so far as to opt for the "Alan Smithee" dodge in the extended edits of the film.
"I started selling out on Dune. Looking back, it's no one's fault but my own. I probably shouldn't have done that picture," he commented. "...And little by little—and this is the danger, because it doesn't happen in chunks, it happens in the tiniest little shavings, little sandings—little by little every decision was always made with [the producers] in mind and their sort of film. Things I felt I could get away with within their framework. So it was destined to be a failure, to me."
Red Sonja (1985)
Following the success of the first Terminator film, Schwarzenegger donned his Conan wig for the not-quite-up-to-Conan-snuff Red Sonja. As it turns out, he really wished he hadn't: "It's the worst film I have ever made. Now, when my kids get out of line, they're sent to their room and forced to watch Red Sonja 10 times. I never have too much trouble with them."
Jaws: The Revenge(1987)
Jaws: The Revenge is the fourth in the shark-centric horror series and spawned the phrase "This time it's personal"—but also earned one of the all-time great jibes from Michael Caine regarding his paycheck role:
"I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Eddie Murphy is no stranger to horrible films. But at least—being Eddie—he has a good sense of humor about it. During a recent interview with Rolling Stone he gave the real reason the Wes Craven-directed Vampire in Brooklyn didn't work. "The only way I was able to do Nutty Professor and to get out of my Paramount deal, I had to do Vampire in Brooklyn. But you know what ruined that movie? The wig. I walked out in that long-haired wig and people said, 'Oh, get the f--k out of here! What the hell is this?'"
Batman and Robin (1997)
On paper, this movie should have been, at least, tolerable. But somehow all these quality ingredients mixed together formed a stinking toxic stew. Or, as George Clooney put it with that signature Clooney charm some years later, "With hindsight it's easy to look back at this and go 'Whoa, that was really $#&!'"
And when a movie is that bad, someone must be held responsible. And as it turns out, the brave soldier to fall on his sword is director Joel "why did you make Mr. Freeze look like that?" Schumacher: "I'm responsible for everything. I said, yes and I took it on," he explains. "It's not my favorite movie I've ever made, but I'm proud of my cast and I'm proud of all the artists who worked on it. I take full responsibility for Batman & Robin."
Later he would go so far as to ask the world for forgiveness in video form:
Judge Dredd (1995)
Later this year, the British comic book hero Judge Dredd will return to theaters in an updated film adaptation, but most folks—at least on this side of the Atlantic—are familiar with Dredd via the mid-1990s movie featuring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider. It's a career point that Sly would (correctly) rather put behind him.
"I [...] look back on Judge Dredd as a real missed opportunity," he told Uncut magazine. "For me it is more about wasting such great potential there was in that idea; just think of all the opportunities there were to do interesting stuff with the Cursed Earth scenes. It didn't live up to what it could have been."
I had completely forgotten about this film and had to Google around to be reminded of its existence. But, as it turns out, Virus is a film that its star Jamie Lee Curtis would much rather stay forgotten, or as she delicately puts it, "That would be the all-time piece of $#&! ... It's just dreadful."
Battlefield Earth (2000)
John Travolta's passion project, an adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth, is a train wreck. And those aren't our words, that comes directly from the man who wrote the screenplay, J.D. Shapiro, as he described it 10 years later in a confessional piece he wrote for the New York Post titled "I penned the suckiest movie ever - sorry":
"Let me start by apologizing to anyone who went to see Battlefield Earth," he goes on to say. "It wasn't as I intended—promise. No one sets out to make a train wreck. Actually, comparing it to a train wreck isn't really fair to train wrecks, because people actually want to watch those."
Planet of the Apes (2001 reimagining)
Mark Wahlberg was recently asked to compare his Tim Burton-helmed 2001 reboot of Planet of the Apes to the actually pretty decent Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The actor was surprisingly forthright in his criticisms of his branch of the Ape family tree. "I haven't seen [Rise of the Planet of the Apes] yet, but I heard it was pretty damn good. Well, ours wasn't. ... They [Fox] didn't have the script right. They had a release date before Tim [Burton] had shot a foot of film. They were pushing him and pushing him in the wrong direction. You have got to let Tim do his thing."
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
The notoriously contentious shoot that led to the unfortunately flawed League was evidently enough of a mess that it drove Sean Connery into retirement, representing his last appearance on the big screen. As he describes it:
"It was a nightmare ... the experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots."
You've got to hand it to actress Halle Berry, who showed up in person to accept her Razzie award for "worst actress" in honor of her work in the universally panned Catwoman. As part of her acceptance speech, she publicly thanked Warner Brothers "for casting me in this piece-of-$#&!, godawful movie." And in a bit more of a jerk move she also thanked "the cast, [because] in order to give a really rotten performance like I did, you have to have a lot of terrible actors around you."
The Internet is filled with whispers of actress Jennifer Garner's embarrassment over this lackluster Daredevil spinoff, but director Rob Bowman has gone on record with some explanations (and just a pinch of defense) for the mess he inflicted on the public. "I knew going into the project, because of the short prep, because I only had Jennifer for her hiatus from Alias, which was ten weeks, and [because of] the short post-production, that we weren't going to be able to make Spider-Man. We didn't have the time to make Spider-Man. We didn't have the time to make Daredevil!"
The Golden Compass (2007)
The Golden Compass was supposed to be a multi-film fantasy epic, but since the first installation failed to catch any real box-office fire, the plans for any sequels were shelved. The series was branded by the film's director, Chris Watz, as his "greatest professional regret." And of course, it's everyone's fault but his. "They felt they couldn't deal with having a film that was going to cause religious controversy. But it would've been a different story if I'd had final cut."
The Happening (2008)
While having a conversation with his Fighter co-star Amy Adams about what other projects they were working on at the time, Mark Wahlberg was hesitant to let Adams know about his work in this revenge-of-the-plants horror flick because she reportedly tried but failed for a role in the film. Or as Wahlberg expletively puts it: "She dodged the bullet." And then after some hesitation he finally admitted to her, "The Happening. F--k it. It is what it is. F--king trees, man. The plants. F--k it. You can't blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn't playing a cop or a crook."
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Crystal Skull is the cinematic distillation of all things disappointing and representative of Hollywood hubris. While some unnamed bearded producers of the film will defend Skulls' most flagrant violations of logic and good sense, star Shia LaBeouf has publicly regretted wasting people's hard-earned $12 (plus another $6 on popcorn) and will gladly pay you back if you ask him for it on the street. Okay, that last part is made up, but he hasn't been shy about admitting how the last addition to the Indie franchise fell so heroically short.
"I feel like I dropped the ball on the legacy that people loved and cherished," he commented on the horrible monstrosity that scarred a generation of moviegoers. "And I think if you don't acknowledge it, then why do they trust you the next time you're promoting a movie?"
Good point, Shia. Hopefully you'll never put out another horrible film, whose shame can not be masked by all the filthy lucre in Hollywood. Which brings us to ...
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Once again, Shia "most honest man in Hollywood" LaBeouf is in on the vanguard of cinematic self-deprecation. "We got lost. We tried to get bigger. It's what happens to sequels. It's like, how do you top the first one? You've got to go bigger." He continues "Mike [Bay] went so big that it became too big, and I think you lost the anchor of the movie. ... You lost a bit of the relationships. Unless you have those relationships, then the movie doesn't matter. Then it's just a bunch of robots fighting each other."
LaBeouf's on-screen love interest, Megan Fox, who famously had off-screen drama with director Michael Bay and did not return for Dark of the Moon, also expressed her bafflement at the final product. While appearing on The Early Show, she freely questioned how someone watching the movie doesn't walk away with a "brain aneurysm or at least a migraine headache." When met with the host's questions about how muddled and confusing the movie was, she agrees:
"I'm in the movie, and I read the script, and I watched the movie, and I still didn't know what was happening. If you haven't read the script and you go see it and understand what's happening, you may be a genius ... this is a movie for geniuses."
But the choicest comments on Fallen come from the man in charge, Michael Bay, who told a British magazine "We made some mistakes" and, more succinctly, "When I look back at it, that was crap."
For once, Mr. Bay, we agree wholeheartedly on an issue relating to film.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
As it turns out, actor Sam Worthington is a big huge movie nerd who goes onto all the message boards to read all the comments and criticisms of his films. In particular, he's acknowledged reading through the Internet's many pointed daggers aimed squarely at the multitude of logic issues in the Terminator series' final and weakest link: Salvation.
"I can nitpick with the best of them, man, and go down the list of things I saw on IMDB where they found holes in it and go, 'You are f--king right. If there was a big 10-ton robot coming outside that gas station, surely we would f--king hear it!' And I missed that! So I go, 'I gotta be a bit better when I'm looking through my scripts!'"
BONUS: Every Movie Ever Put Out by Universal
The word "hero" gets thrown around quite casually. But I'd like to use that term to describe Universal Pictures President/COO Ron Meyer. The studio has had some high-profile flops lately, namely Benicio Del Toro's awful Wolfman. To explain some of these shortfalls during a refreshingly frank speech delivered to the Savannah Film Festival, Meyer issued a blunt, but accurate summation: "We make a lot of $#&!ty movies."
On Cowboys & Aliens: "Wasn't good enough. Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn't good enough. All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie."
Land of the Lost: "Just crap. I mean, there was no excuse for it."
The Wolfman: One of the worst movies we ever made ... Wolfman and Babe 2 are two of the $#%!-tiest movies we put out. ... That's one we should have smelled out a long time ago. It was wrong. The script never got right. ... The script never got right. ... The director was wrong. Benicio [del Toro] stunk. It all stunk."